For the lovers...

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Happy Valentine's Day all you beautiful folk out there! Whether you are spending it wallowing in bouquets and love letters, or out looking for someone to kiss, or home doing not much at all (or home baking like a maniac, then rewarding yourself with steak and chips, like me...) it is, at the very least, a fantastic excuse to make something ridiculously delicious, ridiculously pink and very heart shaped. So here's a recipe. 

These are basically croissant-doughnut love children. I can't use the word C**nut because it's been mega-TMed, so I'll call these Cronies. Because they're smaller than the original, and also because the urban dictionary defines Cronie as "a follower, not a leader. The opposite of a hustla" and these are definitely little followers of the famous Cronut... An illustrative example given is:

I'm a hustla homie,
you a customer, cronie. 

(Jay-Z)

Ok, so now we are all on the same page... 

Cherry, Rose & Vanilla Cronies

Recipe adapted from the marvellous Boy Who Bakes
makes about 10 heart shaped cronies

Although these aren't especially difficult to make, they do have many different aspects and take over 24 hours to sort out, so bear that in mind before embarking. If you do set out on the long road to heaven, however, you'll be extremely glad... First up is the dough. This needs to rest in the fridge twice - once overnight - so start the afternoon of the day before you want to eat them!

For the dough:
60ml milk - body temp
65ml water - body temp
6g dry active yeast
125g plain flour
125g strong bread flour
30g caster sugar
.5tsp salt
150g unsalted butter
To fry:
500ml oil - rapeseed or groundnut

Mix together the milk, water and yeast and set aside. In a larger bowl mix the flours, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into chunks about 2cm square, and using a pastry cutter blend them into the flour/sugar mix very briefly - you want to see large 1cm-ish chunks of butter, so don't go making it into breadcrumbs. Once the butter is combined, add the milk/water/yeast mix and combine with a spatula, then knead with your hands briefly to form a ball of dough. It's essential the butter stays cold and chunky throughout, so only the bare minimum of hand-touching please. Titillating, I know... Now pop the ball of dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film and put into the fridge for a few hours - I'd say minimum 4. At this stage, if you can, make all the other bits & bobs:

to sugar:
50g caster sugar
1/4 tsp rose extract
(or you can use rose sugar if you have a jar)
cinnamon
to ice:

icing sugar
maraschino cherry syrup
cherries
edible glitter
pasteurised egg white 

Mix the sugar and rose extract in a bowl. You could also use rose sugar if you have some, or rosewater, just add to taste - you want it to be pretty dry, so only add a little at a time. Finish with a dash of cinnamon, again to taste. I find one large shake is good. In a separate bowl mix a tablespoon of syrup from a jar of maraschino/cocktail cherries with a tablespoon of water, then add enough icing sugar (sifted) to form a thick paste, a similar consistency to toothpaste is ideal. If you want you can also add a tiny bit of pink gel colour. Tip onto a square of cling film and roll at each end, making it airtight. Keep this in an airtight container until you need it. 

If you want to make glittery cherries to top your cronies, use a paintbrush to brush the cherries with pasteurised egg white and then a dry brush to add edible glitter. You can also use edible glaze or an icing sugar/water solution in place of the pasteurised egg white but I find them less effective and messier. 

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to fill:
250ml full fat milk
1 vanilla pod
3 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
25g plain flour

Now for the yummy vanilla creme patissiere filling. Scrape the vanilla pod into the milk in a small saucepan, then add the pod itself. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the flour and mix until smooth. Heat the milk to just under the boil (it will start to steam a bit and small bubbles will form around the edge). Slowly pour half the milk into the egg/sugar mix, whisking throughout, then slowly add the rest. Return the whole lot to the pan and bring to the boil, whisking continuously. Keep at the boil for one minute, whisking the whole time, then remove to a clean bowl, scoop out the pod and cover the surface with greaseproof paper (pressed onto the surface of the custard, to prevent a skin from forming). Leave to cool at room temp, then pop into the fridge until you need it. 

Before heading to your bed, remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface into a rectangle approx 20cm x 40cm. Then fold the short edges towards each other, as though you are folding a letter to post. Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll it out again. Repeat this process until the dough has been turned a total of three times, then return to the fridge, wrapped in cling film, overnight. 

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Wake up! It's time to roll out your dough! On a floured surface, to approx 1cm thick. Then use your cutter of choice to cut the little cronies out, and place them on an oiled and floured baking tray to prove. You can squidge up and re-roll the dough, but don't expect as flawless results and don't let it get too warm from handling. Usually these messier looking ones are the tastiest, so it's worth it.  

The proving process takes however long it takes - it all depends on how warm your kitchen is. If it's very cold, you can try popping them into the oven at 30 degrees but keep a close eye. Mine take anywhere from 25 mins to 45 mins to puff up - you can check by giving them a gentle prod. You don't want them to have too much or too little give. Over-proving will give you big heavy lumps, so be vigilant and keep practicing. 

Heat your oil in a deep saucepan until it reaches 170C. It's pretty essential to use a thermometer as the oil can rapidly become too hot and burn the cronies, or cool down so much that it makes them greasy. Around 160-180C is optimum. Add two or three at a time and cook until golden brown, about a minute and a half per side. Remove to drain on racks with kitchen paper beneath to catch the grease.

As soon as they are cool enough to handle, roll the edges of the cronies in the rose sugar. I find a wide paintbrush helps to get this neat and even. Then leave to cool completely. 

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Once absolutely, definitely cool, use a food syringe to fill the cronies with your delicious vanilla custard. I usually make a hole right in the middle top, as this will then be covered by your cherry icing. Pop your icing into a piping bag and pop a thick swirl on each. It dries super fast so be ready to add your sparkly cherries, or any other topping, asap after piping. And....enjoy! But make sure you eat them same day, they aren't too happy after a night alone in some tupperware. 

If you're not aiming for perfection, this is absolutely something the littles can get involved in, especially the cutting out and icing. And the eating, of course... 

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eating rainbows

The most delicious one year old in all the land was celebrating her very first birthday, and I got to make the cake! Holly isn't a super fluffy pink girl, but I thought I'd indulge and make a mega-pink cake regardless, because I'd been wanting to for AGES, and I was certain Holly wouldn't mind at all. The word "ombre" has been annoying me everywhere lately, so I thought I'd be bang on trend and copy this beautiful cake and this beautiful cake (I just realised both of those are from February - once again I have failed to be bang on trend...) 

I was going for neon...

I was going for neon...

Holly's birthday cake

The recipe I used is this one and I have to say I've been looking for a really all-American white birthday cake recipe forEVER, and this ticks all the boxes. I've reproduced it below, doubled for the purposes of this cake, and with conversions for the UK. I've also altered it for use with plain flour (cake flour isn't available over here, anyone know why?!)

440g plain flour 
8 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
8 egg whites (i bought a carton of liquid egg white and used 240g)
675g caster sugar
340g butter (room temperature)
1 pint/473ml milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract

Heat oven to 170C, line four 9in round pans (I only have one so I had to do four rounds in the oven! Fun.)

Measure the sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Then sift together three times. Beat the egg whites until they are foamy, then gradually add half a cup of the sugar until soft peaks form. 

Cream the butter and once it's definitely creamy add the remaining sugar and cream them together until light and fluffy (this can take a while.) Alternate adding the dry mixture and the milk a little bit at a time, beating until smooth in between each addition. Mix in the almond and vanilla and then beat in the meringue until all is well combined. 

Weigh your mix and then use the scales to split it evenly between 4 bowls. Add varying degrees of gel food colour and mix each thoroughly (I used Americolor Electric Pink). Pour each different colour into a different tin and bake 30-35 minutes. Leave to cool in tin for 10 mins before transferring to a wire rack and cooling completely. 

Once the cakes are completely cool you can begin to ice. I wanted a reliable, yummy buttercream so used Sweetapolita's whipped vanilla frosting - it's super easy and delicious and perfect for birthday cakes. The link above gives you exactly the right amount for this four layer cake. Once made I iced the cake between layers with a little vanilla frosting and a little raspberry jam, to offset the almond in the cake. Then I stacked and crumb-coated the cake and sat it in the fridge for an hour or so.  

To do the rainbow swirly icing I split the icing into three bowls and mixed each with different colour gel icing (Americolor Electric Pink and Electric Blue, I think, but barely any of each). I started with the top of the cake, smoothing it so that the icing hung over the sides a little, then I very roughly added rows in different colours to the sides. Once the icing was on, I vaguely followed these instructions from Apt 2B Baking Co to swirl the icing upwards using the end of the palette knife and the cake turntable. Topped with some garish sprinkles and edible gold stars it was pretty much PERFECT! 

We had to miss the party and zip off on holiday to Wales, but I hear Holly ate the entire cake, and loved it.

Transient