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STORING AND PRESERVING
There are a variety of ways to prepare edible flowers which will allow you to use them in many different aspects of baking, and also helps to preserve them so they are available when you need them, rather than just when they are seasonally in flower. A classic example is when I make elderflower syrup in June, so I can use it for the rest of the year. Once you have picked edible flowers, keep them in the fridge until you are ready either to use them fresh on a cake, or preserve them. A good tip is to sit them on a little piece of kitchen paper that has been dampened with water, this helps to keep them fresh. They need to be kept like this as otherwise they will die very quickly.
These are lovely to drizzle onto sponges or add to toppings or fillings – I've used elderflower in the Jelly and Cream Sponge Cake on page 76, for example. You can use a range of flowers to make delicious syrups, including lavender, rose, hibiscus and violets, and also many herbs, so just experiment to see what you like.
ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL RECIPE
Elderflower is so abundant in our gardens in the UK, but when its season is over it's gone. However, you can bottle its delicious floral flavour for use all year round with this syrup. It lasts for a couple of months in the fridge, and can be frozen in ice cube trays or food bags and defrosted as needed.
2.25kg (5lb) white caster (superfine) sugar
2 large unwaxed lemons, zest pared and fruit sliced
20–24 fresh elderflower heads, stalks removed 80g (23/4oz) citric acid
1. Shake off the elderflowers to get rid of any debris or little bugs, then swish them around in a large bowl or bucket of clean water, lift out and shake off the excess water.
2. Put the sugar and 1.5ltrs (23/4 pints) water into a large saucepan and heat gently until the sugar granules are all dissolved, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, bring the pan of syrup to the boil and let it bubble for a minute, then turn off the heat.
3. Add the elderflower heads, lemon zest and slices and citric acid to the syrup and stir well. Cover the pan and leave to infuse for 24 hours, stirring halfway through that time.
4. Strain through a muslin or clean tea towel. Use a funnel or ladle to fill sterilised bottles. Chill or freeze as needed.
SUSPENDING IN SUGAR
I've found that melting down clear mints and adding edible flowers works really well. I've done this to make my Sugar Lollies on page 46. Once encapsulated in the sweets, the flowers will last well for a couple of weeks, suspended in sugary time.
CRYSTALLISING EDIBLE FLOWERS
Crystallising is a pretty way to preserve flowers – they are a sweet crisp sugar-coated treat.
There are a few ways you can do this and most flowers can be crystallised, though some are more fiddly than others. For example very tiny soft delicate petals are trickier than simple large rose petals, it just takes time and patience. The most important thing is to ensure you coat all of the petals completely, so you may have to wiggle the brush in between petals. I used this method for the preserved dahlias in this book, it took a while but the effect was really beautiful. They looked lovely as giant pom pom decorations for my Ganache Cupcakes on page 54.
The most common method is to use egg white and sugar. Once preserved like this, the flowers will certainly keep for a few weeks, and depending on the variety, crystallised flowers can last for many months if you substitute the egg for Gum Arabic (see below) and store them in a cake box layered between paper and kept out of sunlight, in a cool, dry place.
For a longer life you can use food grade Gum Arabic to adhere the sugar to the flowers. With egg white the crystallised flowers will last a couple of weeks, but with Gum Arabic they will store for several weeks or in some cases months. Gum Arabic can be bought online or ordered in from a good chemist. A small pot is not expensive and lasts for ages. To use this, dilute a couple of teaspoons of Gum Arabic into a flavourless alcohol such as vodka until you have a consistency slightly thinner than single cream. The Gum Arabic will need to be left to sit in the alcohol overnight to ensure that it properly dissolves. This is also a good method if you are making a cake for vegans or anyone with an egg allergy. I have also used chickpea water (aqua faba) for crystallising flowers and it worked extremely well. Treat it in the same way you would egg white. It's a little thinner but it works and is perfect for vegans.
1. Fine white caster (superfine) sugar is best for crystallising. Using a soft, fine paintbrush, gently paint either with egg white, aqua faba or Gum Arabic liquid onto the edible flowers (on both sides of the petals).
2. Then sprinkle the sugar carefully all over them – on both sides and in the cracks and crevices – so that it adheres. Knock off any surplus sugar and place on a baking sheet, lined with baking parchment, to dry. If you get too much sugar stuck to the petals, the flowers can get pulled out of shape and flattened, so this process may take a bit of practice.
3. Depending on the temperature in the room, the flowers may take a few hours to dry and should then be kept in an airtight container until use. The colour can also fade from the flowers if they are kept in direct sunlight, so store them carefully.
PRESSING EDIBLE FLOWERS AND LEAVES
Pressing edible flowers is the same as pressing any flowers. It is simple to do. I use a flower press because I like to do a lot! Presses are inexpensive, but you can of course stick to the old-fashioned method of using heavy books. Remember that it's important to have good paper to press with, blotting paper is best.
To get the best results press the flowers when they are as fresh as possible. Pick blossoms and petals that haven't been bruised, torn, damaged, or wilted. If they have a thick stem part at the back of the flower, try and cut this down as much as you can without going so far that the flower breaks apart.
Flowers with naturally flat faces, such as pansies or violas, are easier to press than flowers that have more three-dimensional shape like orchids, whole roses, or dahlias. But as long as you place them carefully and are sure to tighten the flower press regularly, smaller roses work well (see Pressed Flower Faux Frames, page 122, the red roses are so pretty). Of course, you can take edible flowers apart to press them; I love pressing rose petals. Some edible flowers have more moisture, like the little daisies, which have quite juicy centres, they just may take a little more time. I press my edible flowers for a minimum of a week, although some of the more succulent ones, including the roses and daisies, may take longer.
Many leaves such as sweet cicely are lovely when pressed, although some just go a bit crisp, so it's always worth experimenting to see what works for you. Whole lavender stems, flowering herbs and fennel came out really well. See my Macarons on page 38 – the small yellow roses are really lovely, but there's no denying that if you want a pressed flower that's looks very like the fresh flower, violas and pansies do have the best look. I love the vintage effect you get from pressed flowers and they will keep for months as long as you are careful to keep them out of direct sunlight and completely dry.
1. Unscrew the flower press and take off the top piece of wood. Place one piece of cardboard on the bottom of the press (you can use any thin cardboard, you can even recycle packaging as long as it is plain, not printed), and place one sheet of flower press paper (or blotting paper) on top of the cardboard.
2. Arrange your flowers on the flower press paper, taking care to have them as flat as you can so that when pressed they look open.
3. Add a second piece of paper over the top of your flowers, then add more cardboard, taking care not to move anything.
4. You can repeat this process and build up several layers depending on the size of the flowers and how big your press is. Once full replace the top piece of wood and screw the wingnuts as tightly as you can.
5. Make sure you tighten the screws daily. If your press is large you can even stand on it to add pressure when doing this, or just use your hand, or something like a heavy pestle and mortar, to push down as much as you can and tighten. Store in a dry place in your house, I keep mine in the airing cupboard as it's dark and dry.
6. When your flowers are pressed, they will be very delicate so handle them with care ... sometimes it's useful to use tweezers to lift and place them if they are absolutely paper thin, it depends on the type.
Alternatively you can use heavy books to press your flowers, make sure you don't mind if they get a bit wrinkly or damaged though! Use blotting paper in the same way and use extra weight on top of the books to aid the pressing process. Take care to leave quite a few pages in between layers (if you are pressing more than one layer of flowers at once) as sometimes the moisture might cause some mould.
Some people rate 'pressing' flowers in a microwave, and you can find instructions for this online, however I don't like this method as I think they lose a bit of their colour.
DRYING EDIBLE FLOWERS
Some flowers dry better than others – I love dried fire feathers and oregano flowers – but all flowers will dry. Some work better for using as flowerfetti, as you can easily crumble them up once dry, see the Dried Flowers Chocolate Bark on page 48. If you wish a whole flower to stay intact (for example a viola or pansy), be sure to lay it carefully, with the open face facing downwards and the petals arranged flat so they don't fold over.
1. I find the best way to dry flowers is simply to arrange a few sheets of kitchen paper onto trays and lay out the flowers so they are not overlapping or covering each other.
2. Leave the flowers out to air in a dry dark place, and they will dry out well after a few days.
3. Once they have finished drying I find the best way to store the flowers is inside cake box lids, with some kitchen paper in between layers so they are kept away from light. They will last for many months as long as they're stored properly.
I have used a dehydrator for drying flowers, but I find this rushed process doesn't give as pretty a finish and some of the flower petals frizzle up more than when dried by the longer natural method.
To avoid repeating the recipes that I use regularly for the cakes in this book, and to keep all the cake construction techniques in one handy reference section, I've gathered all the basic instructions here. You're welcome!
VERY VANILLA SPONGE RECIPE
This simple sponge recipe, I like to call my very vanilla recipe as I always put lots of vanilla bean paste into the batter. This mixture can be used to make layer cakes – many of the multi-tier cakes in this book are created using this basic sponge – as well as cupcakes like the ones in the Cupcake Wreath on page 50.
You can add additional flavourings to this basic recipe, as suggested in many of the cake recipes. For example, I use this recipe for the Flowerfetti Inside Out Cake on page 92, and added a mix of edible flowers including fresh lavender to give the sponge a herby lavender taste.
CALCULATING CAKE BATTER QUANTITIES
I've suggested sizes and layer numbers for making the cakes in this book, but of course you could adapt any of the instructions to make larger cakes or more tiers by just increasing the batter amount as needed. I prefer to weigh my cake batter into the tins to keep all the layers equal heights. A top tip for working out a guide as to how much total batter weight you will need, is to fill each tin with water to a 4cm (11/2in) height and total up how much is needed. For example, my Flowerfetti cake is made up of two tiers – 10cm (4in) and 18cm (7in) round cakes – and each tier is made with two layers of sponge. Therefore the batter weight to add to each tin is 175g for each 10cm (4in) layer, and 375g batter in each 18cm (7in) layer. The total weight of cake batter is 1.1kg (2lb 6oz), so make a 6 egg mix using the Very Vanilla Sponge Recipe, and you'll have a tiny bit left over. If you need a lot of batter for one of the larger cakes, you can multiply the quantities. For example, the fourtier Electro-pop Drip Cake on page 134 requires 4.7kg (10lb 4oz) of sponge batter. In that case, make two and a half times the amount in the recipe below by multiplying all the ingredients weights by 2.5, so make a 15 egg mix. I often make a few cupcakes and pop them in the oven with the main cake if I have spare batter.
Makes 1.2kg (2lb 101/2oz) batter
300g (101/2oz) soft salted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
300g (101/2oz) golden caster (superfine) sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste, I love using the Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste as it is the most natural flavour and is alcohol free, or flavourings of your choice (see below)
6 medium free-range eggs, lightly beaten
300g (101/2oz) self-raising (-rising) flour with 1 tsp baking powder lightly whisked through
1. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla (or other fkavourings if using) into a large bowl or your mixer bowl and combine.
2. Turn the mixer speed to high (or if you're using a wooden spoon, use plenty of elbow grease!) and beat until the mixture is very pale, soft and fluffy and the granules of sugar have disappeared.
3. Add the egg, about one quarter at a time, beating it in.
4. Add the flour gradually, one quarter at a time, mixing gently on a slow speed, until it has been incorporated. Fold with a metal spoon if doing this by hand. Take care not to mix or beat vigorously or your sponge can turn out a bit tough.
5. For cupcakes bake for around 12 minutes, checking every few minutes, or see the baking time given in the recipe for larger cakes. Cakes should be a light golden brown, springy to the touch when they are cooked. A sharp knife, cake tester or metal skewer should come out clean and free of mixture.
SPONGE FLAVOUR SWITCH-UPS
For a different sponge flavour try adding one of the following: Lemon or orange – add zest of two lemons, or zest of one large orange; brown sugar/caramel – switch the sugar for light muscovado for a deeper caramel taste; chocolate – switch 30g (1oz) flour for cocoa powder (unsweetened cocoa) and add an extra 1/2 tsp baking powder to the dry ingredients.
I use this buttercream recipe for all my basic frosting, and as the base for my chocolate ganache buttercream. You can vary the flavour by adding lemon zest or flower syrups, or stirring in edible flowers. Bear in mind that some flavours may add colour too (lemon can make the buttercream somewhat yellow), so consider whether you want that effect or not when choosing to add anything to the basic recipe.
Just as with calculating cake batter quantities (see box on page 22), if you need more than the 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) of buttercream that this recipe makes, just multiply all the amounts. It's worth making more than you need because running out before your cake is fully covered is something of a nightmare, so err on the side of generous when calculating amounts.
Makes 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) buttercream
500g (1lb 2oz) soft unsalted butter
1kg (2lb 4oz) icing (confectioner's) sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste, my preference is the Nielsen-Massey one, or substitute with other flavourings
A few tablespoons of just-boiled water (optional)
1. Place all the ingredients into a large bowl, or the bowl of your mixer. I use Silver Spoon icing sugar as there is no need to sift, but some other icing sugars may need sifting into the bowl to avoid lumps.
2. Set your mixer on a low speed, otherwise you will dust your entire kitchen in powdery icing sugar! Beat the ingredients together until they are pale and smooth. At this point you can add a little just-boiled water, a tablespoon or so at a time, on a low speed and then raise the speed to high. This helps to make the icing paler and more creamy.
PREPARING A CAKE
LAYERING AND FILLING
You may require multiple layers of cake per tier depending on the design. These instructions are for creating a tier made of two cakes, one of which is split, filled and layered, thus creating three sponge layers. Of course, you can repeat the steps as needed to make a taller cake, like the Brushstrokes and Blooms Cake on page 118, which has five layers.
1. Generally, sponge cakes will come out of the tin with a slight rounded hump. Trim off the hump from the top of each sponge to level it (A). Slice one of the layers in half through the middle, using a cake leveller or a sharp serrated knife, such as a bread knife.
2. Place a cake drum the same size as the tier you are working on onto a cake turntable on an additional larger cake board. I add a little buttercream between these as then once I've done
the crumb coat (see page 26), it is much easier for me to do a second coat of buttercream as the cake will stick in the middle of the board and not move around when you press a palette knife onto the side. Place half of the tier you've cut onto the drum, sticking on with a little buttercream.
3. Spread the sponge with jam (jelly) or curd if using (B), then spread a generous layer of buttercream over the sponge. Top with the other half of the cake layer.
4. Add more buttercream to the top (C), spread jam over the last layer, invert the cut side onto the buttercream (so you have the nice flat part that was in the bottom of the tin to give a neat top), add this final cake layer, push down and check that the layers are in line and level (D).(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Botanical Baking"
Copyright © 2019 F&W Media International, Ltd.
Excerpted by permission of F+W Media, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
How to Use this Book 8
About Edible Flowers 10
Storing and Preserving 16
Baking Basics 22
Sweet Treats 32
Lavender Biscuits 34
Iced Rings 36
Meringue Lollies 42
Sugar Lollies 46
Dried Flowers Chocolate Bark 48
Cupcake Wreath 50
Ganache Trio 54
Floral Krispie Cake Topper 64
Just Desserts 66
Spring Flowers Bundt Cake 68
Gin and Tonic Cake Tails 70
Pistachio, Mint and Yoghurt Cake 74
Jelly and Cream Sponge Cake 76
Rose and Lychee Cake 80
Apple Blossom Loaf Cake 84
Ultimate Vegan Choc Cake 86
Celebration Cakes 90
Flowerfetti Inside Out Cake 92
Faux Flowerpot illusion Cakes 96
Orange and Almond Touch of Frosting' Cake 100
Buttercream Cactus Garden Cake 104
Butterfly Wildflower Meadow Cake 108
Lemon Cookie Monogram Cake 112
Bold Botanical Leaf Cake 116
Brushstrokes and Blooms Cake 118
Pressed Flower Faux Frames 122
Blousy Blooms Bunting Cake 126
Dried Flowers Watercolour Cake 130
Electro-pop Drip Cake 134
About the Author 141
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Many years ago I attended a cake decorating class that used flowers, mainly violets and nasturtiums, to decorate but I never progressed beyond the first few attempts. This time I have already completed 10 times more than the first class. Why, this book is informative without being intimidating, instructional while still encouraging personal tastes and generally a much better teacher than an actual teacher! My family has been generous with their oohs and ahhs while the goofs have been pretty comical. The point is Juliet Sear has encouraged me and my baking co-horts to create some pretty great memories with her excellent book.
This is an inspirational book. It is inspirational from an artistic perspective and from a baking perspective. I am looking forward to trying out many of the recipes. I hope with the step-by-step guidance of author Juliet Sear I will soon be creating pretty edible decorations for all my family’s celebrations. The first part of this book provides an alphabetized list of the edible botanicals used in the cake decorations. Names, photos, taste and best uses are covered. The second part of this book provides methods to incorporate botanicals into your kitchen repertoire. The third part of this book presents delectable sweet treat recipes and decorating tips.
I was fascinated by this book as I find the idea of using flower for food really fascinating. I appreciated the explanations, the clear recipes and the amazing pictures. This book is really useful if you want to cook using flowers. Highly recommended! Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.