Friday, 24 December 2010

Cupcakes for Christmas

With the big day just around the corner, there's still time to make a little something special to share with your friends and family on Christmas eve or Christmas day.  We're all pretty busy this time of year.  There's food to prepare, gifts to be wrapped and stockings to be stuffed.  I've come up with a few super easy ways to decorate your cupcakes for Christmas.  And don't worry if you're not very handy with a piping bag - I've also made a couple of cute little toppers that you can just stick right on top of your cupcake.  Here's a few really simple ideas to decorate some cupcakes for Christmas. 

Christmas Tree Cupcakes 

These really are as simple as they look.  Pipe a big swirl of green icing onto your cupcake for the tree, then add some sprinkles for the lights, and finally cut out a little star from sugar paste or fondant to top it all off.  Pretty cute huh? (Excuse my icing, it looks a bit dry but it really wasn't!)

Christmas Pudding Cupcakes 

Christmas puddings are a staple on every Christmas table in the UK, but they're not very common in North America.  They're traditionally made with dried fruit, spices and brandy, but are a bit labour intensive and can require up to 8 hours of steaming before they're done the first phase of cooking.  Christmas puddings are made months ahead of time, and are then stored in a cool dark place (as one recipe states: "under the bed in an unheated bedroom is an ideal place") until the big day.  They're traditionally served with a custard or brandy sauce poured over top, and garnished with a sprig of holly.   If you're like me and can't be bothered with all that fuss, and I much prefer the taste (and ease) of a chocolate cupcake then give these decorated Christmas Pudding Cupcakes.  Cover your cupcake with chocolate icing, take a dollop of white icing and spread it around so it looks like it's running down the top of the cupcakes, and then top it off with a few pieces of holly that have been cut out from sugar paste of fondant. Easy, and no piping bag required! 

Gingerbread Man Cupcakes 

You've got 2 choices with these, but both require a mini gingerbread cutter.  Last year I got a package of 12 mini gingerbread man cookie cutters, each one in a different position.  I didn't get around to making gingerbread men this year, so I just used some sugar paste that I tinted brown.  You can use either sugar paste, fondant or gingerbread for your little men, and then use some little sprinkles for a face and buttons. 

Here are the two fondant plunger cutters I used for the star and holly decorations.  They're sold in packs 3 stars and 3 holly leaves, each in a different size.  I kinda forgot to take a picture of all my little gingerbread men.  I got them at TK Maxx last year, but still see them there every few months. 

If you're more of a cupcake topper fan, then you can give these ones a try.   

I purchased some pre-tied bows from the fabric store and just glued a toothpick onto the back of them.  Simple. But if you're in more of a crafty mood you might want to making the little reindeer toppers.  

I picked up a pack of little gingham print wooden reindeer and a pack pre-tied tiny green and silver bows from Hobby Craft - each were only £1.  Simply trim the bows and glue them onto the reindeer using a glue gun.  Once they've cooled, flip them over and glue a toothpick onto the back. 

These are so easy to make, and I think they're really something different than a regular cupcake decorated using only icing.  There's just something very fun and whimsical about them.  So I've you've got a bit of spare time in the next day or so, give one of these cupcake ideas a try!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Gifts From The Kitchen

I'm snowed in.  Seriously.  I'm one of the thousands of people in the UK that haven't been able to go anywhere for the last few days.  The country is in chaos, along with other parts of Europe.  Planes, trains and automobiles - they've all ground to a halt.  I'm sure that my friends back in Canada and the US are laughing at us right now.  After all, it's just a bit of snow right?  Wrong!  I haven't been able to leave the comfort of my own home in 4 days, but at least I've been stuck in the comfort of my own home and not at the airport or Eurostar terminal like the thousands of other  people who are snowed in at the moment. 

Being snowed in a few days before Christmas has presented me, along with the rest of the UK with a bit of a challenge - we haven't finished our Christmas shopping!  I live in an area that doesn't get a lot of traffic down our road, which means that we've got a lot more snow and ice than most areas.  One thing that I have been able to do is pop into the corner store to pick up a few supplies.  Baking Supplies.  Even though I haven't been able to get out to do my Christmas shopping I've been able to bake and in this case - roll some delicious little Christmas treats that would make the prefect last minute Christmas gift. 

These chocolate truffles couldn't be easier to make, and they're soooo good you definitely can't eat just one.  But be careful!  Make sure you don't eat them all, or you won't have any left to give to your friends!  

You only need 3 main ingredients to make these tasty little balls.  Chocolate, cream and a bit of sugar.  You'll also need few extra ingredients too - Icing sugar, cocoa & some grated chocolate.

Chocolate Truffles

6oz (170g) Chocolate, good quality, either dark or milk.
8 Tbsp (120ml) Cream 
0.5oz - approx 3 Tbsp (14g) Sugar

1 Tbs Baileys liqueur, or other of your choice

Icing sugar, cocoa, grated chocolate, coconut or chopped nuts for rolling your truffles in

1. Break up or chop chocolate into small pieces and put into a small to medium sized stainless steel bowl.

2. Pour cream and sugar into a small sauce pan and heat over medium heat until almost boiling. Stir frequently to prevent any burning. 

3. Once the cream and sugar has come close to boiling, pour it over top of the chocolate pieces (the chocolate should be mostly covered by the cream).  * If you'd like to add additional flavour to your truffles, now's the time to add it.  I used Baileys Cream liqueur with my first batch, but you can use rum or any other liquor you'd like.  Let the cream sit on the chocolate for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, start to stir the chocolate and cream together using a metal spoon.  Start from the inside and stir clockwise working your way to the outer edge of the bowl.  Stir until the chocolate and cream mixture is smooth and combined.  There shouldn't be any lumps of chocolate left.  This is what's known as Chocolate Ganache.  Let the chocolate ganache mixture cool, and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night. 

4. After chilling over night the mixture should be quite solid.  Scoop out some of the chocolate ganache using a small spoon, and roll it into a ball using the palm of your hand.  It gets messy here because the chocolate ganache melts quickly so it's hard to get your truffles into perfectly round balls.  Once you've rolled out your truffle, the outside will be moist and sticky.  Now's the time to roll it in whatever coating you choose.  I started out with cocoa, icing sugar, and grated milk and white chocolate. Put your "coatings" in a few shallow dishes and drop your truffle into them.  Give the bowl a few shakes and your truffles will coat themselves in whatever coating you choose.  Continue to roll and coat your truffles until your all done.  This recipe should make about 36 truffles. 

I made my first batch of truffles using good quality organic dark chocolate and Baileys Irish Cream liqueur.  They turned out beautifully, but were very rich so make sure you don't eat too many! There you have it!  A perfect gift for the holidays, made by you!   

I liked these truffles.  I mean I really liked them.  But - my husband thought they were a bit too rich for his liking, so I opted to make a batch using milk chocolate instead.  I also tried something different with my second batch.  Something Christmassy. 

Something Red.  Something Green.  Something White. 

Pretty festive huh? 

I made this batch using grated Wilton Candy Melts in Christmas colours.  I also made a few using grated pink candy melts, but I gobbled them up before I could get a picture. Oops! 

To get these perfect little colourful curls, I just sandwiched 2 Wilton Candy Melts together and grated them on the small holed side of my regular box grater.  I only needed about 10 candy melts in each colour.  Simple!  If you've got time before Christmas I  really suggest you try making these.  You could even leave out a few for Santa!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

A Winning Combination

First of all, my apologies for the lack of posts over the past few weeks.  Our home computer was broken so I haven't been able to get to my baking pictures, and I've also had a horrible cold for the last week.  Throw that into the mix along with the pre-Christmas events that I've had going on, and I'll admit I've been pretty useless.  I mean, I haven't even been on Twitter for 7 days!  Me!  Yeah, I know.  It's sooo not like me!   BUT- I'm back now with a few weeks worth of Christmas baking posts that I'm going to try and get up before the big day.   

The first Christmas event I went to this year was actually back in November.  It was a product launch hosted by Sainsbury's for their new Taste The Difference (TTD) Christmas & Party Food product range. I had a fabulous evening chatting with the lovely folks at Sainsbury's and learning about the products in their new TTD Christmas range.  I was impressed to hear that their Panatonne is sourced straight from Italy, and comes from an old family recipe passed down from generations. There was plenty of delicious food on hand to sample including miniature Thai Fish Cakes, Steak & Ale Pies, Chicken & Bacon Pies, and the cutest little paper cones filled with tiny pieces of fish & chips!  

More Christmas Appies

They also had some delicious prawns rolled in a crispy wonton wrapper and then tied at each end to look like a mini Christmas cracker - too cute!  I washed all of those delicious appies down with several glasses (ok, more like 5 - it was a long day!) of the new Sainsbury's Hibiscus Pink Fizz which was sweet and delicious - one of my favourite things of the evening.  Another favourite of the night happened to be their new Mince Pie Ice Cream.  It's deliciously creamy, with chunks of mince pie folded throughout.  I think it would be amazing on a nice hot waffle drizzled with a bit of syrup.   

Mincemeat Pies & the delicious Mince Pie Ice Cream!

For those of you who aren't familiar with a mincemeat (or mince) pies and tarts, they don't actually have real meat in them.  At least they don't anymore.  Mince pies have been a traditional Christmas treat for hundreds of years, and traditionally they did contain real meat, along with fruit and spices.  Nowadays mincemeat is made using a mixture of dried fruit such as apples, raisins, currents, candied citrus peel, brown sugar, spices and brandy. I'll admit that when I first moved here I was quite put off by mincemeat pies.  Perhaps it was just the name, or that I wasn't used to the combination of strong flavours, but after being surrounded by boxes and boxes of mince pies at work during the weeks leading up to Christmas, I actually found myself growing quite fond of them.  Mincemeat pies aren't very common in Canada or the US, but I do know that you can purchase pre-made mincemeat in a few Canadian stores (not sure about American ones), but I don't recall ever seeing any pre-made pies or tarts available. 

A month or so ago Sainsbury's sent me a jar of their new Taste The Difference Mincemeat filling.  Since mince pies are so common during the Christmas period, I decided to try and use my jar of mincemeat for something other than the predictable pie.  I've come up with a few delicious recipes that make a great alternative to the traditional mincemeat pie.  The first one is a delicious Apple Crumble with a few spoon fulls of mincemeat tossed in to create a Chrsitmassy twist on a classic dessert.  

Mincemeat Apple Crumble 

6 Apples of your choice.
1/4 heaping Cup mincemeat filling
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Nutmeg 

2/3 Cup + 2 Tbsp packed (155g) Brown Sugar (called Dark Muscavado in the UK)
1/2 Cup (63g) Flour
1/2 Cup (45g) Oats
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 Cup (75g) Butter, softened 

1. Pre-heat oven to 365F.  Grease a dish of your choice. I used a 6x8 deep casserole dish, but an 8x8 glass pan would work as well. Peel and slice your apples, and place them into your dish.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Dump in the mincemeat and stir until mixed throughout (If your dish isn't deep enough, you may have to combine the apples and mincemeat in a separate bowl before putting it into your baking dish. 

2. In a large bowl combine brown sugar, flour,  oats, cinnamon, nutmeg and softened butter. Using clean hands, combine everything together in the bowl by tossing the dry ingredients together with the butter, and then squeezing the butter together with the dry ingredients until well combined.  Really squish it around so everything is moist and mixed together.  The mixture should crumble into little balls - break up any really large ones.   

3. Sprinkle the crumbly mixture on top of the apples and bake for 35 - 45 minutes, until apples are tender and the topping is golden brown.  The juice from the apples should be bubbling through the edges of the dish and crumbly topping when done.  Let the apple crumble cool for about 20 mins, and serve over vanilla ice cream. 

** This apple crumble is absolutely delicious, even without the added mincemeat.  If you don't feel like added in the mincemeat to the apple crumble, it can be made without and served over the Waitrose TTD Mincemeat Ice Cream.  The first few times I tested out this recipe I used Gala apples, but then I made a full sized version using Granny Smiths for a dinner party I had and I think I preferred it with the Granny Smiths, although both were really tasty.  

And now for the part you've all been waiting for!  The winner of the Cupcake Bag giveaway is: 

Congratulations Liz!!!  I'll be in touch shortly to get your mailing details, but if you see this before I email you then feel free to contact me with your details.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Whoopie! It's a Giveaway!

You may recall that I made my very first whoopie pie a few weeks ago when I tested a recipe for a new cook book that has yet to be released.  I was really impressed with how easy whoopie pies were to make, and wondered why the heck it took me so long to try them!   

Last week I made pumpkin pie, and I've been on a bit of a pumpkin kick ever since.  One of my favourite things to make with pumpkin are my pumpkin spice cupcakes, but this time I decided to forgo my "old faithfuls" in exchange for something new. Pumpkin Whoopie Pies!  I've wanted to make these pumpkin whoopie pies for ages - long before I offered to test the chocolate and vanilla ones, but I just never got around to it.   

These whoopies are really delicious.  They're a bit like carrot cake, but without all those little carroty bits.  Sandwich some cinnamon cream cheese filling in between them, and you've got a match made in heaven. 

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

1½ cups (190g) flour 
½ tsp salt 
½ tsp baking powder 
½ tsp baking soda 
½ tsp vanilla extract 
2 ½ tsp ground cinnamon 
½ tsp ground ginger 
½ tsp ground cloves 
1 cup (220g) packed brown sugar 
½ cup (125ml) vegetable oil 
¾ cup (165g) pumpkin puree 
1 egg 

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling 

½ cup (113g) Cream Cheese  
½ cup (113g) Butter, room temperature 
1½ cups Icing Sugar 
2 tsp vanilla 
1 tsp cinnamon  
Maple syrup or flavouring** (optional) 

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC), and lightly grease 2 baking sheets, or line with parchment paper. 

2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the oil, vanilla and brown sugar together. Mix in the pumpkin and eggs, and beat until well combined. Add in the flour mixture, and mix until combined.   

3. To form your whoopie pies, drop two teaspoons of batter onto the prepared baking sheets.  Alternatively, you can pour your batter into a piping bag, and pipe 1½ inch circles onto your baking sheets Bake for 10 minutes. Cool. 

4. For the cream cheese filling, beat the butter and cream cheese together until well blended.  Add in the icing sugar, cinnamon and vanilla, and blend until light and fluffy.  If the icing isn't stiff enough, add in a bit more icing sugar until it's thick enough. **I tried several variations with my cream cheese filling.  I split the filling into thirds, and left 1/3 plain, 1/3 cinnamon, and 1/3 maple (I used McCormick brand Maple Flavouring from Canada).  I thought all 3 fillings, were delicious, but I'm a sucker for anything cinnamon, so preferred the cinnamon variation the best. 

5. Spoon or pipe the cream cheese filling onto the bottom of one of the whoopie pies before placing another one on top of the filling to create a small sandwich. Repeat until all of the whoopie pies are complete. 

There ya go.  Pumpkin Whoopie Pies!  Bet ya can't eat just one! 

And now for the best part!!!

Since we're almost half way through the first week of December, I'm assuming most of you have probably started your Christmas shopping by now.  I have.  And while I was out shopping a few weeks ago, I came across another one of these reusable nylon cupcake bags.  I've had this exact bag for ages, and I have to admit it's great for popping into your purse and whipping out at a moments notice to carry home all of your purchases.  And because it's Christmas, and because it's the season for shopping - and giving, I've decided to give away this cute little bag.  To enter for a chance to win, all you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what you'd put in the bag when you go shopping. Would it be a hat and scarf for mom? A DVD set for your boyfriend? Or toys for your kiddies? You can get extra entries by doing each of the following, and then leave a comment telling me which ones you've done.     

  • Become a Follower of Made With Pink using Google Friend Connect  
  • Become a Fan of Made With Pink on Facebook 
  • Follow me on Twitter, and Tweet the following message: I've just entered to win a Cupcake Fizbag from @Made_With_Pink

Links to all of the above are in the right hand column.  Maximum of 4 entries per person.  Contest open residents world wide. The winning comment will be chosen at random.  

Contest closes at midnight (London, UK time) on Sunday December 12th.

Good Luck!

*** I Just wanted to remind everyone that you MUST leave a comment below in order to be entered into the prize draw, otherwise I have no way of keeping track of who tweeted, followed etc.  If you make a comment anonymously then please leave an email address so I can contact you if you win. You should leave a separate comment for each of the 3 things listed above if you want to be entered more than once.  I will be using to choose a number from all of the comments listed below in order to determine the winner. ***

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

A Little Slice Of Home

There's a lot of history in England. I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by it every day, but then again so is everyone else living here! I can't say for sure, but I think I may have a greater awareness of the history surrounding me than most Brits living here do because I come from a country that's only 143 years old. Here in the UK, as well as most of Europe, almost everything is old. I mean REALLY OLD. Walk down any street here and you're bound to come across a building or monument that's at least a few hundred years old. One of my favourite local pubs is over 700 years old, and is rumored to be the second oldest pub in the country with origins dating to the 9th century! It would be pretty difficult to find a building more than 100 years old in Canada. Sure, there are a few - but just a few. So with all this history surrounding me, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that so many of the food names we're familiar with have originated from cities in the UK.
Cheddar Cheese comes from Cheddar - a village in Somerset, England
The Cornish Pasty (one of the UK's favourite snacks) comes from Cornwall - a region of South West England
Jersey Milk/Cream comes from Jersey cows that are raised on the island of Jersey off the coast of England
Yorkshire Puddings comes from Yorkshire - a county in Northern England
Worcestershire Sauce comes from the city of Worcester in the West Midlands of England

But English cities aren't the only ones with famous foods named after them. There's plenty more from around the world:

Champagne comes from the Champagne region in France
Buffalo Wings come from Buffalo NY
Philly Cheese Steak comes from Philadelphia Pennsylvania 
Hamburgers come from Hamburg Germany
Brussels Sprouts come from Brussels Belgium

There are loads of foods named after cities around the wold, but I haven't come across many that are named after Canadian cities. When I was younger I remember seeing Winnipeg Cream Cheese in the stores, but haven't seen it in years. Now it's just Philly. We've got Montreal Steak seasoning, but I think we only call it that in Canada. Then there's Canadian bacon, but it's only called that in the US. I have no idea why they decided to deviate away from the word ham, but in Canada it's just called back bacon or ham. Yeah, I'm pretty sure ham was around well before Canada was. 

BUT there is one food that I can be certain of that originated in Canada, and it shares the name of the city it was founded in. The Nanaimo Bar! Nanaimo bars were invented by a local women in the 1950's for a baking competition. Their popularity quickly spread across Canada because they're so simple to make and they don't require any baking. 

As we're approaching the Christmas baking season, I had a think back to the Christmas treats my mom used to make. Nanaimo bars were always on the dessert table at my parents Christmas parties, as well as a few other goodies I'll be sharing with you in the coming weeks. Nanaimo bars used to be a Canadian secret, but then they started to make their way down south into the US and different variations of the recipe started to emerge. And now with the introduction of the internet they've been making their way around the world through recipe sites and bogs like mine. So perhaps you've already come across these little bars before, and if you haven't you should definitely give them a try. They're simple, and they're delicious!

Nanaimo Bars

Base Layer

½ cup (114g) Butter, softened
2 Eggs
½ cup (113g) Sugar
2 cups (265g) Graham Cracker or Digestive Crumbs
5 Tbsp Cocoa
1 cup (90g) Coconut
1 tsp Vanilla
½ cup (75g) chopped Pecans, Walnuts or Hazelnuts*

* I used hazelnuts in my bars, but if you don't want nuts in yours you can substitute them with another ½ cup of graham cracker crumbs instead.

1. Place the softened butter, sugar, cocoa, vanilla and eggs in top of double boiler. Mix well and set over boiling water. Heat and stir until it resembles custard.
2. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in graham wafer crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press evenly into a greased 9 inch square pan.  Set aside to cool.

Custard Icing

¼ cup (57g) butter, softened
3 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp vanilla custard powder
2 cups (250g) sifted icing sugar

Cream butter until soft and smooth. Combine the milk and vanilla custard powder, then add to the butter. Blend in the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Spread over the chocolate base. Chill  for 10 – 15 minutes to become firm.

Chocolate Layer

Melt 4 squares (4oz or 114g) semi-sweet chocolate with 1 Tbsp butter and spread over the custard icing. When chocolate has set, cut into bars. *I opted for the easy route, and used an entire large bar (300g) of the Silver Spoon Cake Craft Chocolate covering for these. It's not the best, but it pours and dries well. 

Because I used a lot more chocolate than what was required I had a slightly thicker chocolate layer on my bars.  I found the easiest way to cut these is to freeze them, and had a tall container of very hot water near by.  Dip your knife in the hot water for a minute and dry it off well.  Then use your hot knife to cut through the bars. This will ensure that the chocolate won't crack or the icing layer won't smoosh out, and you'll have nice clean cuts.

I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but I grew up in Victoria, BC which is only about an hour or so away from Nanaimo. I think it's pretty cool that I'm living a zillion miles away, and in a country that's so full of it's own history, I can still can share a bit of my Canadian foodie history with you. And speaking of history, I just have to point out this little plate I used to display my Nanaimo bars on. It's over 80 years old, and belonged to my grandma. She gave me this little piece of Canadian history when I visited her this past summer. It was given to her by her grandma when she went to visit Saskatoon, SK aka "The Big City", which back then was a really big deal. So even though this plate might not be considered very old in the UK, it's definitely old where I come from!

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