Monday, 28 November 2011

Food Bloggers Unplugged...learning about the baker behind the blog!

I was tagged by Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker to answer a few questions about myself and my love of baking! 

1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?

I can definitely say cupcakes inspired me to start my blog (no surprises there!) I had just been on holiday to South Africa and it was the first time I had seen devoted cupcakeries that were decorated so beautifully and it got me thinking about all the cupcakes I had tried around the world on my travels at different times. I decided it would be fun to start a blog to document them all, and slowly baking recipes crept in to it too! and what was even better was that so many cute devoted cupcakeries started to pop up in England too! I still find myself basing future holidays/day trips around visiting cupcakeries!

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?

It has to be Martha Stewart.  I received her 'Cupcakes' book as a birthday present 2 and a half years ago, and I didn't realise at the time it was the starting point in what is now a very huge baking/cupcake library of mine! She has been wowing the world of sweet toothers like myself for nearly 30 years with her cookbooks, tv shows and magazines, and she's still coming up with amazing and delish recipes! Plus she's an inspiration to me due to the fact that this past August she turned 70! I just about fell off my chair when I discovered earlier this year her actual age.  She looks amazing for a 70 year old and so I'm hoping if I spend my life baking and devouring just as much sugar as her that I can look forward to looking that good when I'm 70 too! 

3. Your greasiest, batter - splattered food/drink book is?

Definitely my Cupcakes by Martha book! In fact my most used recipe, the famous brownie cupcakes, has now fallen out of the book (due to overuse) so it's just as well I know it by heart now!  I've also got more than my fair share of stuck on icing/butter smears in The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook because in the early days it was my go to for frostings.   When we moved abroad last year, my sisters were eager to look after my baking books for me whilst we were gone! and I thought I had retrieved all of them until a few months ago when I was browsing through Hummingbird's book at my sisters flat and I told her I had a butter smear in the exact same place on the vanilla frosting page in my Hummingbird book, she promptly admitted she had never owned that recipe book herself and so in fact it was my book! 

4. Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

Wow, what a hard question! One of my very favourite things about travelling is all the new cuisine you get to try and I have eaten so many amazing things in so many different countries that it's hard to narrow it down.  Of course our most recent travels to Turks and Caicos produced probably some of the most gourmet food I have ever eaten, many of the restaurants on that little tiny island are world class! So I'll share some of the things I ate there with they're probably more exciting than me telling you that it was Root Beer ice cream in Georgia, an In-N-Out burger in California or a frulatta in South Africa (but all 3 of those are still pretty far up there!)

So I present to you Coyaba's Key Lime Pie....hands down the best Key Lime Pie I have ever eaten or ever will eat! I was slightly disappointed when it arrived that it didn't have cream or meringue on top as many other K.L.P's do, but my disappointment quickly faded away as I bit into it and realised it didn't need it! This was melt in your mouth, tongue tingling amazingness! and I'm only sorry that the restaurant we had it at was so far out of our price range that we couldn't go back for round 2! 

The next best thing I ate whilst in the Caribbean was this huuuge slice of Coconut Cream Pie at Coco Bistro. Would you just look at that massive layer of silky coconut cream! It was the best...

Of course it wasn't all sweet things, we ate a whole lot of conch as well.  We even attended the Annual Turks and Caicos Conch Festival! and while there I ate one of the best savoury was a Conch Taco! and it was so delicious, we voted it best in show!

5. Another food bloggers table you'd like to eat at is?

What a great question! For the savoury side of things I would love to eat at Chef in Training's table because Nikki could whip me up tasty Mexican dishes like a cheesy enchilada stack or lime chicken tacos with a side of her mom's homemade refried beans! I would definitely have to head on over to Steph of Raspberri Cupcakes for dessert because a slice of s'mores cheesecake, mint chocolate Aero cake or kiwi fruit & pineapple upside down cake would go down a treat! 

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

I have wanted an ice cream maker for quite some time now...and if money is no object then this is definitely the gadget of my affection! It's purple and it even has compartments especially for sprinkles...need I say more?

7. Who taught you how to cook?

My husband suggested I write back of the pizza box for this question, nice hey? but the truth of the matter is that he is really the one that taught me how to cook...but we both agree he's still better at it which is why I've answered the way I have on the question below! 

8. I'm coming to you for dinner what's your signature dish?

You mean my husbands signature dish? you see in our house he's the chef and I'm the baker.  So if you came to our house for dinner we (and I mean Byron) would most likely cook you up some Caribbean pork chops with mango gravy because pork chops are his thing!, and I'd bake you up dessert - Key Lime Pie maybe? and you could wash it all down with our homemade Oreo milkshakes! Yes we're not fine diners...but that's fine by me.

9. What is your guilty food pleasure? 

Corn Dogs! and I didn't realise it had to be a guilty food pleasure until recently after mentioning them a few times in front of other Americans who've looked at me funny for getting so excited about 'the things on sticks you get at ball games'.  I'm pretty certain if I track down anywhere in England that sells them, you can guarantee I'm going to do a song and dance about it, like the one time I found them at Costco (never to be found again) and the time they suddenly appeared on The Diner's menu in London...and the time I found them at our local supermarket in Turks and Caicos after weeks of being there - I may or may not have declared it my happiest day of our Caribbean living up until that moment! 

Of course I had to take a picture to document my delight! 

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

When I was younger I was a very fussy eater, and only ate 18 of those being gherkins! which my friends were very surprised about! Fortunately I met Byron and he made me try all kinds of crazy things I would have never eaten before, and he has really expanded my palate! for which I'm ever so grateful because eating the same foods can get very boring after a while! I've still got some way to go, like on our honeymoon in Mauritius when we were meant to be having a fancy honeymoon lobster dinner at the snazzy hotel restaurant and Byron had to especially request that they served me chicken instead...but I've come a long way!

Finally...tag 5 other food bloggers with these a hot baked potato...pass it on!

1. Nikki from Chef in Training
2. Katie of Apple and Spice
4. Hayley from The Domestic Rebel
5. Kelly from Kell's Kitchen

If you have been tagged, please link up your entry here and if you tweet, use #foodbloggersunplugged on twitter. 


Saturday, 26 November 2011

Mini Baked Vanilla & Choc Fudge Oreo Cheesecakes

At my church a few weeks ago I was asked to go to a careers evening and speak to teenage girls about a career as a cheesecake maker! It was quite funny since obviously that's not what I'm trained to do, but just something I got the opportunity to do this summer thanks to my sister...who is trained to do that! but I'm always up for talking about baking so I was more than happy to do it!

and of course I couldn't turn up empty handed! So for the first time in a few months it was back to cheesecake making! I opted to make mini's since they always go down well! and for the first time I made a crushed Oreo base (as opposed to crushed digestives/hob nobs) and it was delish! 

Ironically the recipe I used was from a book that I received as leaving present to thank me for my time at The English Cheesecake Company! That book was 'Tea with Bea' and is an amazing collection of yummy recipes ranging from bars and cookies to cheesecakes and pies and everything in between! It features some of my all time favourite desserts like key lime pie, coconut cream pie and hummingbird cake! and teaches you to whip up homemade delights such as raspberry meringues and marshmallows to give you a little taste of what lies in store when you actually visit their shop Bea's of Bloomsbury.  It is my favourite place in London to grab an afternoon tea.

If you're all busy writing your Christmas lists then I'd strongly recommend asking Santa to bring you this book, you will not be disappointed! 

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes:
Makes 24
Adapted from 'Tea with Bea's' Vanilla cheesecake with berries recipe

For the cheesecakes:
400g Oreo cookies
100g unsalted butter
800g cream cheese
225g caster sugar
2 eggs
50g cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 125 degrees c.
Crush the Oreo cookies in a food processor or with a rolling pin until they resemble fine crumbs.  Add the melted butter a little at a time.  Grab a bit of mixture and squeeze it in your hand to make it into a ball, then let go.  The mixture should hold its shape but fall apart slightly when touched.  If it doesn't hold its shape, add more butter.  If it is too firm add more crushed cookies.
Press the mixture into the prepared cake tins, when I'm making mini's I use the back of a teaspoon to pat the mixture down so it's level.

Put the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat until well mixed and the sugar has dissolved.  Slowly incorporate the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly until combined before adding the next.  Scrape down the bowl regularly.

Sift the cornflour into the mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.  Pour the mixture into your pans (I measured about 90g of cheesecake mix into each of my mini pans).
Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour until the middle is slightly jiggly and the top doesn't look shiny or wet (if you decide to make one whole cheesecake the recipe recommends a baking time of 1 hour 20 minutes).

For the Fudge frosting:
From 'Tea with Bea'

250ml whipping cream
65g golden syrup
350g high quality dark chocolate (I used 60%)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g unsalted butter cut into cubes and chilled

Pour the cream and golden syrup in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil.
Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl.  As soon as the cream mixture has come to a boil, pour it over the chocolate.  Set aside for 1 minute.
Using a small whisk, stir with very small motions keeping to the middle of the bowl.  Slowly add small amounts of cream to it.  Do not incorporate air and don't be tempted to stir in larger motions as this will result in unwanted air bubbles and could result in a dull grainy texture.
Keep stirring in small motions.  It will look like nothing is happening until eventually a very shiny, thick glossy mixture forms.  Gradually stir in wider motions to incorporate more cream until it's fully combined.
Add the vanilla extract and butter and mix until well combined.  
Set aside to let the chocolate stiffen to a firm consistency before using.

To assemble:

Get the cheesecakes out of their pans once cool.
Cover the surface with a tablespoon of fudge frosting and add broken up pieces of Oreo.
Refrigerate until serving.

Don't be put off with the lengthy recipe here! I baked up the cheesecakes the night before and made the frosting the next afternoon just before I was going to the event.  They weren't as time consuming as I expected, and got plenty of compliments all round! You can top these with whatever takes your fancy, half of my batch were topped with Oreos and half were topped with Snickers.  I also think topping with Toblerone chunks would be equally yummy! 

Monday, 21 November 2011

A Thanksgiving Pie Bar

It probably hasn't escaped your attention that I'm English...yet here I was celebrating Thanksgiving this past weekend (and in my patriotic tee and all).  Confused? Maybe not.  If you're an avid follower of my blog or know me well, you will know that pretty much every day I wake up thinking I should have been born in the good ol' U.S of A! so celebrating American holidays just goes along with my love of all things American! plus the fact my sister and I will both be spending Christmas day with our in laws so we wanted to have a Jones family get together this weekend and since we like celebrating with copious amounts of food - Thanksgiving seemed like the perfect occasion!

It was my sister who suggested the idea of a Thanksgiving feast but I was quick to suggest a Pie dessert bar...because we all know how much I love my sweet things! It was an idea that at first my sister was not too thrilled about because she has been trying to diet and she knew the pie bar would not help her waist line, so my other sister and I took it upon ourselves to go ahead and organise it anyway but keep things under the radar!! because after all what's Thanksgiving without pies!

Here is the table in all it's glory!

A shout out to my dad for making that awesome cake stand out of a log! and he also spray painted those buckets orange to tie in with the colour scheme! and not only that but on Saturday as we were shopping around he slipped me a sly £20 to help me get anything else I needed for the table.  I was delighted when I came across this ceramic cake stand with polka dot ribbon trim in TK Maxx, I have been after one like this for ages! and with my dad's money in my pocket I knew I could actually buy it! So imagine how funny it was when as I approached the till, my mom came and told me that whilst I was browsing around my dad had said he just hoped I wouldn't spend that money on something stupid like a cake stand! so I bought it anyway and rather slyly got it home in my mom's handbag so he was none the wiser! Thanks Dad!

Everyone contributed a pie for the table.  My mom made an amazing Key Lime is her favourite kind of pie and turns out it was the favourite of the whole day, it was so quick to be devoured! She was also responsible for the orange gerberas on the table (my fave flowers!).

My sister, Mel, contributed these cute little pumpkin pies.  I'll shock you now when I tell you it was my first time trying pumpkin pie! I've always been a little scared of it, but accompanied with some vanilla bean infused double cream on top it was delish and you certainly can't have Thanksgiving without some pumpkin pie!

My sister, Tamara, went with a banana and chocolate cream pie that she had seen in her Food Network magazine.  It was so decadent and rich and I loved the chocolate she swirled through the can tell she does this as her day job can't you!

To keep my dieting sister happy, well sort of, I tried to keep my contributions bite size! So I went with these super cute apple pie pops!

...and these mini s'mores pies because nothing says America to me more than a s'more!

S'mores Pies:
Makes 20

250g cinnamon Graham Cracker crumbs
68g caster sugar
113g unsalted butter, melted
150g dark chocolate (60%)
75g milk chocolate
240ml double cream
125g mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 180 degrees c. 
Grease 24 mini pie pans. 
Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Stir until combined.
Press crumb mixture into bottoms and sides of tart pans. You’ll use just 1 1/2 tablespoons per pie.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, then let cool until pans are cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile place chocolate pieces in large bowl.
Heat cream in microwave for 1 to 2 minutes or over low heat until just below boiling. Pour over chocolate pieces and let it sit for several minutes.
Stir cream/chocolate mixture until smooth. It will look pale and chunky at first, but keep stirring. It will smooth out and get very dark.
Spoon mixture into tart pans, using approximate 1 1/2 tablespoons per tart.
Before chocolate sets, top each tart with about 6 mini marshmallows.
Use a culinary torch set to low to very carefully brown the tops of the marshmallows. Be prepared to blow out any small flames as the marshmallows can ignite very easily. (I didn't have a blow torch and tried toasting them under the grill but it didn't really work so I went for the un-toasted option!)
Refrigerate tarts at least 4 hours or overnight and serve.

ALL the desserts went down so well, and I certainly think the dessert bar tradition in our family is here to stay judging by the popularity of this one! 

Here's wishing all my Stateside followers a super yummy Thanksgiving this Thursday! 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Chubby Hubbies Take 2....Triple Coconut & Chocolate Cookies

You may remember a few months ago I made Chubby Hubbies for the first time after attending an awesome baking class with the Outsider Tart boys.

They were, and still are some of the best cookies I've ever tasted! They are known as XXX rated chocolate cookies by Outsider Tart because they contain three different kinds of chocolate.  Last time I added some shredded coconut into the mix as well because I am obsessed with the stuff so they became known as my triple chocolate and coconut cookies.  This time round I reversed things and was feeling in a coconutty mood (when am I not!) and so I devised these triple coconut and chocolate cookies.

I was able to do this with the help of my shredded coconut, coconut M&M's and White Choc & Coconut Lindt bar. I'm sorry to say none of these items are freely available in the UK but if you're feeling rich and want to recreate these cookies exactly you can buy the shredded coconut and M&M's here, and improvise with any kind of white chocolate for your chunks...or you can do as the OT boys advise and make them your own with whatever you feel like throwing in.  

I love the cracked tops of these cookies.  You can see some of the green coloured coconut M&M's peeking through in this shot.  The ingredients I used gave a great variety of textures, there was the crunch of the M&M shell, the chew of the coconut thread and the liquid gooeyness of the melted white choc coconut chunks all enveloped in the moist rich chocolate cookie.

One of my favourite parts of a Chubby Hubby is just for moist and fudgy the cookies are.  I'm not even going to tell you the rate at which these cookies disappeared, it was rather alarming! 

If you want to make someone's day...bake these, I promise they will not be disappointed! 

Chubby Hubbies II: Triple Coconut & Chocolate Cookies:
Makes 18 Cookies

75g Unsalted butter
230g Valrhona chocolate (68%)
2 Large eggs
150g Granulated sugar
3/4 tbs Vanilla bean paste
50g Plain flour
1/4 tsp Baking powder
A pinch of salt
75g White chocolate coconut Lindt, cut into chunks
75g Coconut M&M's
45g Shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Melt the butter in your pan first. Then add the Valrhona chocolate, stirring frequently to avoid it burning (or play it safe and melt the butter and chocolate together in a glass bowl sitting above a pan of simmering water). Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
With a paddle attachment on medium speed, beat together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy (and ropey!).  Add the vanilla and cooled chocolate mixture.  Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes until the dough is thick and glossy.
Add the flour, baking powder and salt - mixing until just incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chunks, M&M's and shredded coconut with a wooden spoon.
Let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes to facilitate scooping.
With a large ice cream scoop drop dough balls onto the lined baking sheets, keeping at least 2 inches between cookies.
There should be no more than 6 cookies per sheet, with wet fingers gently flatten each dough ball.
Bake for about 15 minutes until the tops crack and become glossy.  To the touch they will seem underdone. 
Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 mins before placing them on wire racks to cool completely.

Eat and enjoy when warm and delicious, trust me - it's the best way :)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Cookie Craziness! Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chunk & Banana Cookies

I have been on a definite cookie kick lately! In the past two weeks alone I've whipped up four different kinds...along with brownies, cupcakes, rocky roads.  I never fully realised the extent of mine and my husband's sweet tooth's until these past few weeks.  Every night after dinner we wonder what yummy treat we can have...and usually I wonder over to the kitchen to see what I can make happen! 

So when Byron requested cookies, I asked what kind - peanut butter and banana was his response.  I googled some recipes to see what I could find and I finally settled on this one.

I decided the addition of some chocolate chunks would add an extra level of deliciousness and I was right, these were some seriously fat cakey oozing with gooey chocolate cookies! They were so easy to whip up, so quick to bake that I can see they are going to be repeated often in our household! 

What is great about these cookies is that (due to having a really tiny baking sheet) I only baked 4 actual cookies on the night we were after some treats.  I refrigerated the rest of the dough tightly wrapped up in clingfilm and for 3 days afterwards every time we came in from Uni we popped 4 more in the oven so the warm cookie goodness kept us going all through the week! 

Here's my adapted recipe:

Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chunk and Banana Cookies:
Makes 24 cookies

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup crunchy Peanut Butter
1 stick of unsalted butter (1/2 cup) at room temperature
1 over-ripe banana
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cups sifted plain flour
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda  
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped up milk chocolate chunks

In a large mixing bowl cream the brown sugar, caster sugar and butter. Next, add peanut butter and continue to cream. Add vanilla and banana, salt and bicarbonate and the egg. Slowly add in flour to bring it all together.  Stir in chopped up chocolate chunks. If making drop cookies simply spoon onto baking sheet.

To make formed cookies:
Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Take a small amount of dough, about the size of ping-pong ball and shape into a ball. Place on a cookie sheet. You should be able to fit 12 on a large sheet. Bake for approximately 8 minutes. The cookies should be a light brown. Remove from oven, and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes and carefully transfer to a cooling rack.
Your cookies will be moist and delicious! If you prefer a crunchier cookie, bake a little bit longer.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Brownie cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting to welcome Baby Elijah!

There's nothing that says 'Welcome to the world Baby' than a batch of my opinion! so when we heard some of our new friends from church had welcomed a new arrival I got into the kitchen to do some baking.

I made my favourite brownie cupcakes because the parents of the new baby had enjoyed them a few weeks before, so I figured they would enjoy them even more second time round.  Plus the first time I had made them I was still getting to grips with our new oven and to my taste they were slightly burnt, no-one else seemed to mind, so this time I ensured they were baked to perfection.

Around a year ago I ordered a whole load of chocolate moulds from an American seller on eBay.  They were practically giving them away they were so although at the time I didn't know any pregnant people I knew they would come in handy! I also bought tons of Christmas moulds that I'm excited to getting around to use this year! So the moulds I used had baby bottles, rattles...

little sleeping bubbas...

and even praying toddlers! how cute is that! I thought it was apt since they were for friends from church! 

I also wanted to personalise them a little so I got out the good old fondant, tinted it blue and really wanted to make perfectly round discs to sit on top of my cupcakes.  I looked around my worktop to see what I could use and I saw my collection of piping nozzles.  I used my biggest one and pressed the underneath of it into the fondant and it created the perfect sized circle! 

I then used my letter stencils to spell out 'Baby Elijah' and after leaving them to air dry I placed them on top of the frosted cupcakes along with a few blue heart sprinkles for good measure! 

I was pleased with how they turned out, as were Elijah's parents but the verdict is still out on what Elijah thought himself! 

Brownie Cupcakes:
Makes 36 Mini's
Taken from Martha Stewart's 'Cupcakes' Book

225g/8oz milk chocolate
113g/ 1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
225g/1 cup caster sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
62g/ 1/2 cup plain flour
31g/ 1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F.  
Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Stir occasionally until just melted, about 4-5 mins.
 Remove bowl from heat.  Whisk in sugar and salt until mixture is smooth, whisk in eggs to combine.  Gently whisk in flour and cocoa just until smooth (do not overmix).
Fill cupcake cases until 3/4 full.  Bake, rotating tin halfway through, until a cake tester inserted halfway in centres, comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 15-18mins (If you are baking regular sized cupcakes, bake for 25 mins).

Vanilla Bean Frosting:
Makes enough to frost 36 Mini' some leftover for quality control :)
Taken from Cupcake Project

250g/2 cups icing sugar
225g/1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste 
1 tablespoon milk

Mix together sugar and butter until they are blended and creamy.  Add vanilla bean paste and milk and continue to beat for another minute.  If desired, add more vanilla bean paste to taste, or more icing sugar to make a stiffer consistency.


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