Wednesday, 29 June 2011

BakingBar's Amsterdam Adventure

In May BakingBar Live Blogged from Amsterdam for 1 week. The Live Blog is still very much a feature of our website and can be viewed here. We intend to turn this into a permanent feature more along the lines of an Amsterdam Foodie Guide.

We wrote a summary article for Zomppa International Food Magazine whom we have a monthly column with. This is posted here and we highly encourage you to check out the other articles on Zomppa!
After just one day home from our week long Live Blogging trip to Amsterdam the difference in Northern Irish and Dutch culture is extremely evident.

From the moment we stepped off our train to Amsterdam the number of bicycles was overwhelming. In fact as the week continued you almost felt like the odd one out without a bicycle. These bicycles were not brand new sports or mountain bikes but were in fact mostly old Dutch bicycles which had been constantly repaired and repainted. This simply added to the atmosphere of Amsterdam. We wished we had rented a bicycle out for at least one of the days but we simply didn’t have time during this trip. But this is something we highly recommend doing and something which we most certainly will during our next visit.
The way of life in Amsterdam is so relaxed and less of a rat race compared to Belfast. The comparison between this trip and our one to London last year was even greater. The multi cultural society which makes up the community in Amsterdam is evident from arriving in Schiphol airport. The people of many nationalities all conform to the same view on life that nothing needs to be done in a hurry, always smile and always be polite. Somehow regardless of these traits which we noticed, the public transport was always perfectly on time. It sounds like the Dutch have got the perfect balance for life!

As you wonder the maze of streets of Amsterdam, which I find resembles a giant spiders web, it does get easier to navigate when you recognise key buildings but my biggest tip for any trip to Amsterdam is never leave the hotel without a map. It was not uncommon for us to get lost for a few hours most days. However we never gave in once to asking someone for directions. With no time constraints to be in a certain place by a certain time the feeling of being lost in a beautiful city was somewhat a relief.

As you continue further through the spiders web of streets away from the city centre, the canals become less busy, the buildings more traditional and the setting even more tranquil. We walked along canals and sat by the waters edge for many hours during our visit. There is nothing better for coming up with fresh ideas and clearing your mind. In fact i wrote some of this article while sitting at the waters edge by the bridge in the photo below.
You can almost smell the history in Amsterdam. Some photographs of houses and canal boats are timeless. Notably moving is Anne Frank’s House and the Homomonument designed by Karin Daan, which commemorates all gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality. The monument is designed in the image of the pink triangle which gay men and lesbians were forced to wear under Nazi occupation. One corner of the monument forms a separate triangle which leads down steps to the level of the water. We noticed a new bunch of flowers laid on this memorial each day which was especially touching.
Now for the reason we went to Amsterdam. The many skilled bakers and artisans ensure there is a constantly supply of freshly baked treats. We noticed that the shops which had the most people in them were all bakeries, perhaps lured there by the tempting smell. The range of food in Amsterdam is overwhelming. From Thai food to traditional Dutch, it can all be found within Central Amsterdam.
One place which we least expected to find amazing food was within the shopping centre called de Bijenkorf, which was located on Dam Square. They have dedicated their entire top floor to a huge cafe/restaurant. This is different however to any other restaurant you will have visited. It consists of many separate stands with many varieties of food. From freshly made sandwiches, pastries, soups and pizzas these can all be found in de Bijenkorf.
The life and culture of Amsterdam is spellbinding and breaks your heart to leave. We hope to visit many many more times and perhaps there is a relocation to Amsterdam planned for the near future.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Neills Flour - Apple & Cinnamon Bread Mix - Review

We at BakingBar are not normally fans of ready mixes but we understand that some people are. This ready mix for Apple & Cinnamon Bread changed our opinion. There are certain recipes which take a lot more time than most people have. Some people don't have 1 hour to wait for bread to rise, enough time to stand and knead the dough or even enough time to measure out the ingredients. Well we have a solution for you, this comes in the form of Neills Flour newly launched Apple & Cinnamon Bread Mix. 5 mins to prepare and 27 mins to bake!
This is part of a range of mixes which we will be testing out and reviewing in the coming week. Our previous review was Neills Irish Wheaten Bread Mix. You can read this here.

The packaging is simplistic but this is a benefit! The instructions are clear, concise and easy to follow.
The ingredients which you have to add to make this fantastic recipe is something which all of us already have in the fridge. Simple milk and a tiny amount of butter.


So how do you make this wheaten bread?
Well the instructions on the back of the packet couldn't be clearer.
Preheat oven to 195c
Measure out 330g of the Flour Mix (the bag makes 3 loaves!!!)
Measure out 245ml of Milk (whole, semi skimmed or buttermilk)
Pour the flour mix into a large mixing bowl
Mix in 15g of butter until it mixes evenly through the flour
Add the Milk
Stir together until combined, pour into a greased loaf tin.
Even out and slit down the middle with a knife.
Sprinkle with a little flour
Bake for 27 mins, remove from oven and let rest for 5 mins.
Turn out, cut and enjoy!

So what do we think of this Apple & Cinnamon Bread mix? Well it looks like Neills Flour have triumphed again! A fantastic mix which is hard to tell the difference between it and a normal apple and cinnamon loaf which you take a lot longer to make. The bread is perfect served with butter or we find honey makes it even more indulgent.


You can view the whole range of Neills Flour varieties on their website

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Mint Choc Cookies & Cream Cupcakes

Combining two of my favourite things, mint chocolate biscuit and cupcakes I came up with this recipe.

Ingredients:
Cupcake:
150 g butter
150 g sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
150 g NEILL'S®self-raising flour
1 tbsp milk
Frosting:
225g of Icing Sugar
55g of Butter
1tsp Vanilla
4 Crushed Mint Chocolate Biscuits


The How-To :
Preheat over to 180 degrees C
Cream the butter and sugar together until creamy and light in colour
Add 1/3 of the beaten egg into the butter and sugar mix, stir in. continue to add 1/3 of the flour to the mix, stir in. Continue to do this with the flour and the eggs until all ingredients are in the bowl.
Now stir in the vanilla extract (Do not over stir)
Evenly divide mixture between 12 cupcake cases and place in the centre of the oven for aprox 20 mins.

Now we need to make the frosting
Cream the butter in a bowl for aprox 5 mins until light and creamy.
Mix in the vanilla
Mix in the icing sugar until combined.
Finally whip the frosting for aprox 2 mins on high speed until light and fluffy.
Stir in your crushed biscuits.
Decorate your cupcakes with the frosting and enjoy!!

Your Done!


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Neills Flour - Irish Wheaten Bread Mix - Review

We at BakingBar are not normally fans of ready mixes but we understand that some people are. This ready mix for Irish Wheaten Bread changed our opinion. There are certain recipes which take a lot more time than most people have. Some people don't have 1 hour to wait for bread to rise, enough time to stand and knead the dough or even enough time to measure out the ingredients. Well we have a solution for you, this comes in the form of Neills Flour newly launched Wheaten Bread Mix. 5 mins to prepare and 30 mins to bake!
This is part of a range of mixes which we will be testing out and reviewing in the coming week.
The packaging is simplistic but this is a benefit! The instructions are clear, concise and easy to follow.
At the top of the bag of mix reads " Simply Add Milk", this is completely true! However it includes optional instructions to add 3/4 tbsp of Olive Oil which I believe makes and keeps the bread more moist.

So how do you make this wheaten bread?
Well the instructions on the back of the packet couldn't be clearer.
Preheat oven to 200c
Measure out 330g of the Flour Mix (the bag makes 3 loaves!!!)
Measure out 280ml of Milk (whole, semi skimmed or buttermilk)
Pour the flour mix into a large mixing bowl
Add the Milk
Add 3/4 tbsp of Olive Oil
Stir together until combined, pour into a greased loaf tin.
Even out and slit down the middle with a knife.
Bake for 30 mins, remove from oven and let rest for 5 mins.
Turn out, cut and enjoy!

So does this Wheaten Bread taste as good as traditionally made wheaten bread?
Well the answer is simple yes it does. I can find no fault with this bread at all. I have tried a few ready mixes before and they were dry and tasteless but this one is incomparable. Sliced and served warm with a little butter you will find it hard to stop eating it.

You can view the whole range of Neills Flour varieties on their website

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Orange 'Upside Down' Cake

This is our first 'upside down' cake recipe. As with all our recipes this is a basic concept of a cake turned into a delicious unrecognisable dessert! This cake can also be customised easily, it doesn't have to be orange flavour but strawberry, blueberry and pineapple all work equally as well! 



The Ingredients:
175g Caster Sugar
175g NEILL'S®Self Raising Flour
175g Butter
3 Eggs
2tsp Orange Extract/Essence
Half tin of Small Orange Segments
2 tbsp Golden Syrup

The How-To:
Preheat oven to 180c
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.
Add the eggs to the mix one by one ensuring each is combined before adding the next.
Stir in the orange extract/essence.
Stir in the flour.
Line the bottom of a round cake tin with a circle of baking paper and grease the sides of the tin.
Drizzle the 2tbsp of golden syrup over the base of the tin, it doesn't need to be perfect
Now arrange the orange segments around the bottom of the tin.
Slowly pour the cake batter into the tin on top of the oranges.
Bake for 35 mins or until when a skewer entered comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a plate (put plate on top and flip over is the easiest method)
Drizzle with a little more golden syrup while still warm if you wish.

You're Done