Under the Blue Gum Tree: Haemul Pajeon (Korean Seafood Pancake)

Having devoted every post so far (and there are not many of them) to baking, I thought I'd write about something a little different tonight.  Although I've yo-yoed between fat and a bit thinner several times in my adult life, I'm not one for following 'faddy' diets and have been particularly sceptical about joining the current 5:2 'craze'.  I know an already slim lady who has done it and she is now so thin she looks like she'd snap in two.  A friend who has tried (and will admit she failed at) every diet under the sun in her many moons on this planet has also had great success.  But to me, the idea of stuffing your face five days a week and then starving twice a week is anathema.  I'd rather just go with sensible every day with the odd treat thrown in.

At the moment, I'm doing okay because I'm back running so burn off a fair few calories each week.  I eat a pretty balanced diet (and probably a few more snacks than I should) but my weight is stable.  But in the not-too-distant, I will have to hang my running shoes up for a while and go back to watching what I eat.

Perusing the Guardian website last weekend, I happened across Felicity Cloake's Reader Recipe Swap on the 5:2.  All the 'diet' food sounded just great. but when I noticed that the winning recipe was submitted by Clare from Under the Blue Gum Tree, I knew I had to try it out because it would be a good one.

I 'met' Clare via Twitter through our shared love of Dan Lepard's books when I was doing the 366 Recipe Challenge.  Clare has challenged herself to do 5:2 this year and loves how it fits into her lifestyle.  Personally, I'd find the idea of skipping breakfast really hard to do some days but if it would help me drop the last half stone I want to shift once I can't run any more then I'm game for a go at this.

So tonight, having run seven miles, I rewarded myself with the whole of Clare's pancake as it's only 502 calories (the run burned nearly 900).  And quite frankly I'm stuffed to the gills.  I was actually teetering on fullness after the first half, but valiantly soldiered on as there was nobody around to finish the rest*.  I could definitely see this working as something for me to take to work for lunch if I ever do 5:2.

Because I was a numpty and used up my peppers in veggie chilli earlier this week, I used half a diced courgette instead.  Eating so much green stuff made me feel even more healthy and much less guilty about the caramel egg I scoffed when my run was done.

You can find the recipe here.  

*Quite a big bite of the elephant tonight

A Waddle of Oreo Penguin Cupcakes

I was recently asked "How can you write so much about making a cake" by one of my work colleagues.  The honest answer is, I really like to babble.  A few of my friends know this.  As does my mobile phone provider who will probably go bankrupt now I've switched to an unlimited tarriff.  I guess blogging is my way of getting out that book that everyone is supposed to have inside them.

Don't eat us, we're too cute!
I did promise him that I'd just write "I made penguin cupcakes, end of"for this post, but in reality, it doesn't work that way.  Some of my early posts over at 366 Recipe Challenge were quite brief, but then the waffle started and it became a habit to write lengthy posts.  And this is going to be one of those posts.

The cakes in question are a belated birthday cake gift to the questioner 'M' who I work with.  Despite FaceAche telling me it was his birthday, I still forgot so promised he could choose what cake I would make to take into work this week.  He emailed me a link to a page about cupcake decorating from Bored Panda* and requested a waddle of penguins.  Well one, but you can't make just one penguin as he'd be lonely.

Given that it still feels like the middle of winter in the UK, despite it being April 7th, I duly accepted the challenge and spent today intermittently working on my little army.

The original recipe comes from the My Feelings Taste Like Cupcakes blog by Anna.  Her post about the trials and tribulations of working with oreos is entertaining and certainly made my attempt a whole world easier.

I'm guessing that pretty much all Americans have a knack for twisting the tops off of oreos successfully.  I'm so weedy that I couldn't even manage to do one - but a sharp knife worked wonders.  I also rather prudently (well mostly because oreos are flipping expensive) separated the ones for the faces and made the wings before making the crushed oreos for the base and filling so that I could use the broken bits rather than ending up with a pile of wasted wings.  A sharp knife definitely helps and I found using my fingers as a cutting guide meant mostly clean even breaks.

I'm ready for my close up
Because I was short on time and couldn't be bothered to pipe a load of chocolate eyes, I swiped the googly eyes out of Miss A's craft bag to finish them off.  I've just discovered you can buy the Wilton ones that Anna recommends from Amazon but it doesn't say how many you get for your £4.  If you're not making them for kids, then you can buy about 100 eyes for £1 in Wilkinsons.

Anyhoo onto the techie bit.  As Anna doesn't detail how to make the cupcakes because she wasn't happy with the recipe she used for the cake bit, I chose to use my favourite vanilla cupcake recipe from the 366 Recipe Challenge - a Dan Lepard one.  Partly because it is pretty much the same as the one I used to use pre-challenge and partly because it has to be my favourite post from the challenge.  (Vanilla cupcakes are quite popular on the blog as the post about Mary Berry's cupcakes has had a whopping 20,000+ views since I posted it in March 2012.)

Because the Lepard recipe makes a smaller quantity of cakes, I got 10 for my troubles so I'll detail the steps here.  Anna's post has a great set of pictures on how to make and assemble the cakes.  For me, it took enough patience to decorate the things without remembering to photograph every step!

Makes 10 cupcakes
  • 2 packets oreos (the double stuffed ones are easiest to work with)
  • 1 orange Starburst (the recipe gets expensive if you can only find family sized packs!)
  • 20 eyes - googly, made from sugar paste or bought edible ones
  • Muffin tin lined with ten paper cases
For the base
  • 10 oreo halves minus the cream (equivalent of - use the odds and ends from making the wings)
  • 50g butter
For the cake
  • 125g very soft, unsalted butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of table salt
For the filling
  • 125g butter
  • 60g cream cheese
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 2tsp vanilla essence
  • 30ml double cream
  • 6 oreo halves minus the cream (equivalent of - use the odds and ends from making the wings)
For the topping
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 125g marshmallow fluff
1, Using a sharp knife, split ten oreos to make the faces.  Use the plain biscuits to make the wings by first cutting them carefully in half and then chopping a third off each half to make a wing shape.  Reserve any broken bits to use for the base or filling.
2, To make the base, split five oreos in half and remove the cream.  Place in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin until fine crumbs.  Melt the butter and stir in the oreos. Put a tablespoonful of mixture into the base of each cupcake case and flatten down.  Bake at 160c/140c fan for five minutes.  Remove and increase the oven temperature to 180c/160c fan.
A veritable waddle of ping-wings
3, Make the cake by beating the butter, sugar and vanilla essence until light and fluffy.  Stir in the eggs then sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until evenly combined.  Place a tablespoonful into each muffin case.
4, Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.  To stop the cakes peaking, put a baking sheet on the shelf above the muffin tin.  Remove and leave to cool.
5, Make the filling by beating the butter, cheese, cream and vanilla essence together.  Beat in the icing sugar until well combined.  Remove three tablespoonfuls into a small bowl. Crush the oreos and then stir through the filling in the small bowl.  Core the cupcakes and pipe filling into each, replacing the core on the top.
6, Add the marshmallow fluff to the remaining filling from step five (the stuff without the crushed oreos in) and beat until well combined then whisk in the icing sugar until it forms a stiff, pipeable mixture.
7, Put the Starburst on a microwaveable plate and heat for fifteen seconds.  Move it quickly to a clean work surface then roll flat with a rolling pin and cut small triangles to make the beaks.
8, Finally assemble the cakes by piping a plain swirl of topping onto the cake then adding the wings, faces and beaks.  Because it's tough to get a clean split on the faces, I took Anna's advice and spread a little of the topping on each face - it helped stick the eyes and the beak too.

Et voila.  Cupcakes that are too cute to eat!

* I had seen this post before - check out my version of the Cookie Monster Cupcakes