Sunday, 26 September 2010

A Creepy Confession


So I have a confession to make.... I've never made anything from a recipe book. Ok - well except for Pesto from a Giada de Laurentiis book, and Julia Child's Roast Chicken, but those don't really count because they're so simple.  I've got a ton of recipe books, and many of them are cupcake books - BUT I've never tried making a recipe from any of them.  Why you ask?  Well I'm an instant gratification type of girl. I hate it when things don't turn out. I hate wasting my time and ingredients on something that doesn't turn out exactly as I wanted it to.  I don't like to be disappointed. To avoid failure, I usually turn to the Internet for recipes and inspiration.  I've been known to spend hours reading reviews for a single recipe, making note of every reviewers recommendations, and adding in my own as well.  You just can't do that with a recipe book! 
  
Seeing as I'm sponsoring Cupcake Camp London I decided to bite the bullet and finally make something from one of my many cookbooks.  I finally decided on the Chocolate Cupcake recipe from the Primrose Bakery book.  I'll admit that I consulted a few of my followers on Twitter to help me make my final decision, but I didn't spend more than 10 minutes doing it. Next time I promise not to look at any reviews and just bake!  Baby steps...
 

The Primrose Bakery Chocolate Cupcake recipe called for melted dark chocolate to provide the flavour, but I opted to use a coffee infused dark chocolate bar from Green and Blacks which gave the cupcakes a really nice mocha flavour. Overall, I thought these cupcakes were pretty good, and would recommend you give them a try. 

When I announced that I was sponsoring Cupcake Camp London I told you that I would be featuring a few different cupcake recipes and ideas to get everyone excited about the event. I've made a few this week and the first 2 are perfect for Halloween.  Hopefully these get your creative juices flowing! 


Creepy Crawly Cupcakes: 

You will need: 
Chocolate Cupcakes ( I used the Primrose Bakery recipe below)
Chocolate Icing
Black Sugar or Chocolate Cookie Crumbs
Black Liquorice
Red candies 


These are super easy to make.  You'll either need some chocolate cookie crumbs or some black sugar for these.  I like prefer the texture of sugar, so that's what I used. The US has a huge selection of cake decorating products, so black sugar shouldn't be that hard to find.  Here in the UK we don't have as big a selection, so I had to make my own black sugar.  It's really easy to do, and very economical.  To make your own coloured sugars you'll need some zip lock sandwich bags, sugar and liquid food colouring.  Start out by putting 1/2 cup (225gr) of sugar into a zip lock bag, and then add in a few drops of liquid black colouring.  Seal up the bag, and start kneading the sugar and food colouring together until they're combined.  The sugar should be even in colour, and there shouldn't be any patches of food colouring left.  The sugar should be damp, but not really wet at the stage.  Let the sugar dry out for an hour or so, and then add in a bit more colouring and repeat the same process. Do this until you get the colour your wanting, making sure that you let the sugar dry fully each time before adding more colouring.  I used white sugar, so had to repeat the steps above a few times.  You may want to try using brown sugar that's been left out overnight so it looses some of it's moisture.   

1. First things first - start by putting a big dollop of frosting on top of each cupcake.  Don't worry about it looking too pretty.  Just use a knife to spread it around, ensuring that you cover the entire top of the cupcake so the icing meets the paper liner. 
 
2. Fill a small bowl with the black sugar or cookie crumbs.  Then take each cupcake and lightly roll the frosted top in the sugar making sure to cover all the icing.
   
3. Now that you've got your blackened cupcake you can start to create your spider! You'll need to give it some liquorice legs - I used Catherine Wheels that I cut to the correct length. I decided that my spider looked better with 6 legs than 8, but you can decide what looks best on yours. 

4. Finally it's time to give your spider some fangs/eyes.  I used some red candy coated sun flower seeds that I brought back from the US.  I haven't seen these in the UK before, but you can use whatever candy and colour you want. Red tic tacs or skittles cut in half would work well.

There you have it!  A creepy crawly Halloween spider!  He looks kinda cute doesn't he!  But you know what - where there's one spider, there's usually more.  This spider has a wife. 


A wife who's also a mom.  And all moms know that when you have kids you have to keep a close eye on them!



Chocolate Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery  

*Since the Primrose Bakery book is from the UK all measurements were given by weight. I've converted the weights into ounces for my American readers, but unfortunately I didn't think to measure them out in cups at the time.

4 oz (115g) good quality dark chocolate (I used coffee infused 70% dark chocolate)
3oz (85g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6.20oz (175g) soft brown sugar
2 large eggs, separated
185g flour
3/4tsp baking powder
3/4tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup (250ml) semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
1tsp vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF (170ºC (fan) /190ºC).  Line either a muffin tin (for regular-sized cupcakes) or a mini cupcake tin with cupcake cases.

2. Melt the chocolate then leave to cool slightly.

3. Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric hand beater until pale and smooth. In a separate bowl and with clean beaters beat the egg yolks for several mins. Slowly add the egg yolks to the creamed butter and sugar and beat well. Next, add the chocolate to this mixture and beat well.

4. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking of soda and salt. Combine the milk and vanilla together in a measuring cup. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate, butter and sugar, alternating with the milk and vanilla. Beat very well after each addition.

5. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks start to form. Carefully fold the eggs whites into the main batter using a metal spoon. Do not beat or you will take all the air out of the cake.

6. Pour the batter into your lined cupcake pan - about 2/3 full. Place the pans in the oven and bake for 20-25 mins for the regular size cupcakes or 13-15 mins for the minis. Let the cupcakes cool on wire racks before icing.

Dad and the babies:



If spiders creep you out to much, worms might be a better option for you! 


To make these cute worm cupcakes you'll need to roll your iced cupcake in chocolate sprinkles (or cookie crumbs) to create the dirt.  Next, cut a gummy worm in half and place each end on either side of the cupcake making sure to push the ends into the icing far enough so that they won't fall out.  Now it looks like the worm has crawled though the top of your cupcake!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

This is NOT a Peanut Butter Cup


Well, we all know I LOVE peanut butter, but this post is not about peanut butter and that chocolate thing above is NOT a peanut butter cup.  Something else I love are s'mores, and by now we're all pretty familiar with s'mores.  After all, I've already done 2 posts on them - once here and another here.  Yeah, they're pretty tasty, but their time is coming to an end - well until next summer anyway. So because the days are getting cooler and the rain clouds are moving in, I've come up with the perfect s'more solution so you don't have to freeze your ass off roasting marshmallows in the cold!   
 
With these S'more Cups there's no need to worry about burning your fingers on hot and gooey marshmallows.  And best of all, they won't stick to anything because they're entirely encased in chocolate!  They're perfect to include in kids school lunches - or your work lunches for that matter! 


To make these s'more cups you'll only need 3 things: Wilton Candy Melts, Marshmallow Fluff and some homemade graham cracker rounds. I came up with this idea while I was making the homemade graham crackers for my s'more pops.  But unlike a regular s'more, these stay nice and gooey because they use Marshmallow Fluff instead of regular marshmallows which can go kind of hard and chewy once its been melted. 


Marshmallow Fluff can be a bit hard to find in the UK, but if you know where to look you should be able to get it without too much effort.  For those of you who aren't familiar with Marshmallow Fluff, it's a spreadable fluffy marshmallow spread - exactly how it's name describes it!  I buy my Marshmallow Fluff at TK Maxx (AKA: TJ Maxx/Marshal's in the US or Winners in Canada), but I've also seen it at local farm shops and the Food Halls in Selfrdiges, John Lewis, etc. Visit my international food locator for more info on where to buy American food products.


In addition to the original Marshmallow Fluff, TX Maxx stocks the Strawberry Fluff as well, so if you're one of those people who prefers strawberry over chocolate you can always make some strawberry shortcake s'more cups instead.  



S'more Cups 

Graham Cracker Rounds (recipe here)
Wilton Chocolate Candy Melts
Marshmallow Fluff 

1. You'll need to make a batch of homemade graham crackers using the same recipe I used for my s'more pops. You'll also need 2 circle cutters - 1 slightly smaller than the other. The smaller circle cutter should fit into the bottom of the silicone baking cup, and the larger cutter should fit into the top third of the silicone cup.  Once the graham cracker dough has chilled overnight, use your circle cutters to cut out equal numbers of smaller and larger circles, and bake according to the recipe's instructions. 

2.  Once the graham cracker rounds are out of the oven and cooled, paint the inside of each silicone baking cup with a thick layer of melted candy melts. (I only coated my cups about 3/4 up the side as I didn't want them to be too thick). Use enough so that you can't see any light through the candy melts when you hold the silicone baking cup up to the light. I used a silicone pastry brush, but a regular (new) paint brush or even a tea spoon would work just fine. While the candy melts are still wet, drop one of the smaller graham cracker rounds into the bottom of the chocolate coated baking cup, and put them in the fridge to set. 


3. Once the candy melts have hardened and set, spoon some marshmallow fluff into the cup so it almost reaches the top of the chocolate.  Next you'll need to put one of the larger graham cracker rounds on top of the fluff.  Finally spoon some more chocolate melts on top of the last graham cracker to seal the cup. Try and make sure that that the final later of chocolate meets the top edge of the chocolate cup, and is the same level as the edge of the chocolate cup. When this is done, put the silicone cups in the fridge to harden up.   

4. Once the chocolate cups are hardened and set, pop them out of the silicone cases and you're done!  


Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Exciting News!

Do you like cupcakes? Ok, stupid question. C'mon, who the heck doesn't like cupcakes? If you like cupcakes as much as I do, then you're probably familiar with Cupcake Camp.  The first Cupcake Camp was held in 2009 in San Francisco.  Since then, there have been dozens of independent Cupcake Camps held in cities all over the world including New York, Toronto, Paris, Orange County and now LONDON!  


For those of you not familiar with Cupcake Camp, let me explain:  Cupcake Camp is a mass gathering of of people with one common interest - their love of cupcakes.  All of the cupcakes are generously donated by cupcake lovers who choose to either bake or buy cupcakes.  Then comes the best part - the eating part! For a £1 donation Cupcake Camp will be selling tickets that can be exchanged for cupcakes.  £1 = 1 cupcake, so if you really love cupcakes £10 will get you 10 cupcakes!  That's a pretty sweet deal.  And you know what else is even sweeter? All proceeds will be donated to the North London Hospice Society.  It's cupcakes for a cause!  There will also be a contest element for the cupcake bakers.  There will be 6 different cupcake categories including Best Taste, Tastiest Vegan and Halloween Inspired. The contest will be judged by a panel of judges including the founders of London's own Primrose Bakery. Sounds like fun huh?

But wait!  I've got another piece of exciting news about Cupcake Camp London.

Made With Pink is an official sponsor of the event!
 
That's right!  I'm helping to sponsor this fabulous event, and in order to get everyone excited for Cupcake Camp London, I'll be posting some fabulous cupcake recipes and ideas on the blog over the next few weeks.  

Cupcake Camp London takes place on Sunday October 31st, so you've still got plenty of time to think about what type of cupcake you want to bake  (or eat!) for the event. To register for Cupcake Camp London, and to learn a bit more about the event visit their website here: Cupcake Camp London.  Don't worry if you're not able to bake cupcakes for the event - you can attend as an eater too! 


As a sponsor of the event I'll have a table set up on the main room  for those of you interested in popping by to say hello.  I'll be sharing the table with the fabulous Cupcake Kelly from the blog An American Cupcake in London, so stop by and say hello!

I'm looking forward to seeing all the London peeps there!  

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Aloha Wontons


Well, it's September.  I know. How depressing!  School is starting up again, summer holidays are over, days are getting shorter and cooler, and worst of all the Halloween decorations are already starting to appear in stores.  Don't get me wrong - I love Halloween, but it's definitely a summer buzz killer!  A few weeks ago I created something amazing.  A delicious combination of a few of my favorite summer flavors: pineapple and coconut.  Throw in some yummy almond pound cake and wrap it all up in a crispy fried wonton, and then sprinkle with some cinnamon & sugar.  Yeah - I told you they were amazing!  And to make them even more amazing, I whipped up a delicious cinnamon cream cheese icing to dip them in!


To make these you'll need some wonton wrappers (available at Asian supermarkets - I got mine at Wing Yip), some pineapple compote and some pound cake.  Pound cake originates from the Southern United States, and gets it's name from the fact the cake traditionally called for a pound of each ingredient.  Pound cake isn't very well known in the UK, but it's probably comparable to a UK Madeira cake.  You don't need very much pound cake for these - just a few slices, so you could easily use a store bought pound or Madeira cake, but I felt like making my own. You know - cuz I like to be difficult. 


First you'll need to drop about a teaspoon of the pineapple compote onto the center of the wonton wrapper, and then add a few pieces of the pound cake.  Use a bit of egg white to coat the edges of the wonton before folding it into a triangle and deep frying. 


After the wontons have been fried to a nice golden brown color, sprinkle them with a light coating of cinnamon and sugar.  


Now they're almost ready to eat. Dunk them in some cinnamon cream cheese icing and enjoy! See the chunks of pineapple and pound cake inside!


Aloha Wontons

wonton wrappers
1 egg white
pineapple compote (recipe below)
pound cake cubes (recipe below)
2 cups (500ml) oil for deep frying
1/4 cup (50g) sugar + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
cinnamon cream cheese icing (recipe below)

1. Cut 2-3 slices of the pound cake into very small cubes.
2. Lay out 1 wonton wrapper at a time (keep the rest covered using a damp paper towel so they don't dry out). Drop 1 teaspoon of the pineapple compote onto the center of the wonton wrapper and then add 3 - 4 small cubes of the pound cake. (Make sure not to overfill the wontons, so use your own judgement as everyones pineapple and cake cubes will be different sizes.) Dip your finger into the egg white and run it along the edges of the wonton - this will be the glue that holds the wonton together. Now fold the bottom corner up to the top corner so that the wonton forms a triangle and pinch the sides together so they are tightly sealed. Set wonton aside, and being on another one.
3. Heat the oil in a pot over medium-high heat to 350ºF (175ºC). (The oil should be at least 3 inches deep)
4. Cook the wontons, carefully placing the wontons 3-4 at a time into the hot oil and deep fry until golden brown, flipping as necessary for even browning, about 2 minutes. Remove the wontons from the oil and drain on papers towel and sprinkle immediately with the cinnamon sugar mixture on both sides.
5. Once slightly cooled, dip wontons into the cinnamon cream cheese icing and enjoy!


Pineapple Compote

1/2 can canned pineapple chunks
1 tablespoon pineapple juice (from canned pineapple)
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract

1. Drain the pineapple chunks, and set the liquid aside (you'll need it later).  Cut 1/2 of the pineapple chunks into much smaller chunks (I cut 1 chunk into another 6 smaller chunks - the UK pineapple chunks are bigger than most North American pineapple chunks).  
2. Over medium heat in a small pot combine the finely cut pineapple chunks and all other ingredients. Stir ever 1 - 2 mins until the pineapple compote begins to thicken up. This usually takes about 5 mins. Remove from heat and set aside. 


Butter Almond Pound Cake

2/3 cup (150g) butter
1 cup (200g) white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups (165g) flour (NOT self raising)
3 tablespoons, plus 2 (55ml) teaspoons of milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon butter flavoring

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Grease a loaf pan, and line with parchment paper
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the flour alternating with the liquids (milk, vanilla, almond and butter flavorings) and mix just until incorporated.
3. Pour the batter evenly into the loaf pan, and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. After removing them from the oven, immediately loosen cake edges with a knife. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans. Strip off the parchment paper and cool completely on wire racks. 


Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons (60g) powdered sugar
2 oz (56g) cream cheese
1 teaspoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Combine all ingredients together to create a delicious cream cheese icing to be used for dunking the Aloha Wontons.


I know it may seem like a lot of work, but these Aloha Wontons are like little pockets of sunshine.  They are really, really good! So if you're sad to see summer go, then cheer yourself up by making these.  Enjoy!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

J'adore Paris

I know it's been a while since my last post, but I've been on holiday without any access to my computer.  The past few weeks have been a bit crazy, Paris one weekend, then back to the UK for a few days before heading off to Vancouver, Seattle and Victoria.  4 countries in a less than week sounds glamorous, but it can be rather tiring!  Luckily I managed to find time to  visit with all my family and friends, AND fit in some shopping for loads of fun baking supplies that aren't available here in the UK.  Thank goodness for my extra luggage allowance!! 

To start off my vacay, I celebrated my birthday weekend with my husband in my favourite place in the world - Paris!!!  I absolutely LOVE Paris.  I would totally move there, except for the fact that I can't speak French - and the French don't take kindly to foreigners who don't integrate into their society well.  So until I can speak fluent French (which is likely never, considering I'm not even taking lessons) I'll have settle for the 2 hour journey on the Eurostar.  It's amazing that a country only an hour's flight away can be so incredibly different from London and the rest of the UK.  The architecture in Paris is simply stunning.  Paris wasn't bombed during the war, so it's still got all of their beautiful buildings and landmarks in tact.  Living in London has allowed my obsession with Paris to develop at a much faster rate than if I lived back in Canada.  I've only lived here for 2 years, but I've been to Paris 3 times, and am already planning my next trip.  I'm always hearing about new and fabulous places to visit while in Paris, so I had to tick a few off my continuously expanding list.  On the menu for the weekend (and I do mean menu!) was a Paris Pastry tour. C'est magnifique! 


You'll never guess where these macarons are from!

First up was actually somewhere that I really had absolutely NO intention of going to.  Normally when I go to Paris and other foreign countries I prefer to try food from local restaurants, but when we walked past a McCafe on the Champs-Elysées, I suddenly remembered watching some online interviews with Parisians doing a taste comparison between Pierre Herme's macarons, and the newly launched McDonald's version.  Yes - you read that correctly.  The McDonald's restaurants in Paris sell macarons.  Actually, they sell a lot more than macarons (above).  They've actually got a whole pastry counter, and I must admit it looks like something you'd see in a posh pastry shop!  The McDonald's macarons come in 6 flavours (vanilla, pistachio, chocolate, lemon, chocolate and salted caramel).  I picked up a box (4.50) for us so we could do our own taste comparison.  Verdict: The McDonald's macarons are alright.  I suppose if you haven't tried many macarons before, then you may really enjoy these.  The flavor is there - they did taste good, but the consistency of the "cookie" bit was totally wrong.  They were much denser than the macarons from Laduree or Pierre Herme. These ones had some what of a cakey consistency, which I'm assuming would probably result in them being far less fragile than their more expensive counterparts, which means you might even be able to bring them home with you for family and friends back home. Chances are, they're not going to know the difference! 


McDonald's macarons and pastry case - French fast food!



Next on the tour was Angelina. Famous for their hot chocolate and Mont Blanc pastries, this place should be on everyone's "To Do" list when they come to Paris. Seriously, the hot chocolate is sooo good, but it's sooo rich.  My husband and I each got a pastry - he got a type of vanilla slice that was made up of layers of flaky pastry and vanilla cream, while I got the famous Mont Blanc which is made up of vanilla chantilly cream on top of a thin flat meringue and covered in thin strands of chestnut paste. I'd been warned at rich the hot chocolate was, so we opted to share one.  Seriously, when they say the hot chocolate at Angelina is rich, they're not joking!  This isn't your milky Nestle variety.  Angelina's hot chocolate is pretty much just melted chocolate.  It's so luxurious and thick, and so absolutely delicious.  Le Chocolat chaud l'African is served in a small jug, alongside an accompanying bowl of whipped cream.  If you've read my blog more than once, you'll know I've got a passion for anything sweet, but the combination of the sweet Mont-Blanc and the thick hot chocolate kicked my ass. My husband and I couldn't finish either of them.  I'd definitely recommend going to Angelina's, but would advise you to share the hot chocolate! 


Angelina's famous hot chocolate, Mont Blanc and vanilla slice (in the back).

Angelina sells their famous hot chocolate, but it's practically solid when it's at room temperature! Below are a few other drool worthy shots of the pastries at Angelina







The final stop on our Paris Pastry tour was the infamous Laduree.  As I've mentioned before, the best macarons and pastries in Paris can be found at Laduree.  We had originally stopped by Laduree for afternoon tea one and of their delicious pastries - specifically the Religieuse - a puffed choux pastry filled with a rich chocolate cream, topped off with chocolate fondant. Unfortunately we (as well as several others) were turned away because they were "only serving lunch", tea would only start to be served at 3:30.  I'm not sure if I believe that or not, but we opted to wait in line and ordered our pastries and macarons over the counter to take away.  I ended up eating my Religieuse pastry on my way back to London on the Eurostar - a far less glamours place than inside the golden gilded walls of Laduree. 

A slightly blury picture of the chocolate religieuse


More pastries from Laduree




If you've read my previous post about the macarons from Laduree, you'll know that I'm totally obsessed with them, as well as their beautiful boxes.  Several times a year Laduree releases specially designed limited edition macaron boxes, and I just happened to be in Paris while their Summer 2010 boxes were being sold. This years box was covered in pretty white daisies, and had a cute little butterfly attached to the top.  I just had to have it!



Mmmacaons!!! 

While in Paris, we stayed in an amazing little hotel directly opposite the Arc de Triomphe called the Hotel Splendid Etoile.  This hotel was so charming, I'd recommend it to anyone! Both the room itself and the view were amazing, and the breakfast was delicious!  Lots of yummy breakfast pastries!


Our hotel room, and the view from the balcony at night.

 
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