Friday, 24 February 2012

Sainsbury's Cookie Review


Way back in August when I was still 9 months pregnant, the fabulous folks over at Sainsbury's contacted me to see if I'd like to try out some of the new cookies they were launching.  They thought it might be nice for me to have some cookies on hand to offer my guests who were going to come and visit my new baby.  How nice of them to realise that I wouldn't have the time to bake anything.  Heck, it's now 6 months later and I still barely have time to bake!


I was thrilled (and slightly relieved) when I received a big box containing 6 different types of cookies.  Seriously, isn't that every pregnant women's dream???  There were Butterscotch Shortbread Thins, Mini Milk Chocolate Butter Biscuits, Giant Raspberry and White Chocolate Cookies, Lemon Curd Shortbread Sandwiches, Raspberry Whoopie Pie Biscuits, and the ever popular Pink Wafer.

So what did I think?  

Giant Raspberry and White Chocolate Cookies & Butterscotch Shortbread Thins

Well, let's start with the Butterscotch Shortbread Thins (£1.59).  As the name suggests, these were a thinner shortbread cookie/biscuit that had crunchy melted butterscotch bits scattered throughout.  I'm usually not a fan of shortbread cookies, but these were different as the whole cookie offered up a nice crunch.  These wouldn't be my first choice when it comes to a cookie, as I usually like something a bit richer and more decadent, but if I was looking for a nice cookie to savour with a cup of tea, these would be it.


The Mini Milk Chocolate Butter Biscuits (£1.00) were more my thing.  Mainly because they had chocolate on them.  Have I mentioned before that I like chocolate? :-P  These cookies were perfect for sharing.  Although they came in a fairly small bag, there were a lot of little cookies crammed in there.  These are the type of cookie you'd keep in your office desk and much on when you get a craving or need a little pick me up.  Or, if you're feeling generous you could share them as well.  There's plenty to go around. 

The Giant Raspberry and White Chocolate Cookies (£1.99) had a really nice flavour to them.  What I liked the best was the suggestion on the package to pop them in the microwave for a few seconds just before you eat them.  The result is a warm and soft cookie with a pleasant raspberry and white chocolate flavour.  Although I did really like the raspberry and white chocolate combination, I think I would have preferred the triple chocolate version (Giant Extremely Chocolatey Cookies) even more.  You know, cuz I like chocolate!

Pink Wafers & Lemon Curd Shortbread Sandwhiches

Then there were the Lemon Curd Shortbread Sandwhiches (£1.99).  I couldn't wait to try these, but unfortunately I was a bit disappointed with them.  They looked delicious, but my husband and I both agreed that there just wasn't enough lemon curd in the middle to pack a nice lemony flavour.  I think they would be better if there was a little less shortbread and a little more lemon filling.  I did like the sugary tops though. 


The second cookie to have raspberry in it were the Raspberry Whoopie Pie Biscuits (£1.49). This name threw me off a bit, as I thought that the biscuit would have been soft like a whoopie pie, not crunchy and crumbly like it was.  The whoopie pie biscuits were raspberry flavoured swirl cookies with a vanilla filling sandwiched in between.  Surprisingly my berry hating husband really liked these.  While I thought they were good, I don't think they deserve to be called whoopie pies  when they're really just a fancy sandwich cookie.

Finally were the classic Pink Wafers (£0.55).  These were peachy coloured layered wafers with a vanilla cream in between each layer.  You can't really go wrong with wafer cookies.  Although these were also good, but I would have liked them to have a pinker colour and maybe filled with a strawberry cream rather than vanilla.


Thanks again to Sainsbury's for these delicious cookies.  My guests loved them, as did my husband and I.  Most of the cookies above are available in a variety of different flavours, so check in store or online to see if they have your favourite flavour combination.

Happy munching!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Snickers Brownies


A few months ago I was at my local grocery store, and noticed that multi packs of Snickers bars were on sale.  I bought some.  Not because I was craving one, but purely because they were a good deal. I'm a sucker that way.  I know - BAD!  

It's rare that I actually decide to munch on a candy bar, so it wasn't surprising that the pack of Snickers sat on my baking shelf forgotten and unopened for weeks.  It wasn't until I started tiding up that I found them, and figured I should bake something in order to use them up.   Alongside the pack of snickers, I found a box of brownie mix from a previous trip to the States. I figured I might as well use that up as well.  So, a bag of Snickers + a box of brownie mix = Snickers bar brownies!  Why the heck not!?


I'm going to be honest - I wasn't sure I was actually even going to like these brownies.  Why?  Because when it comes to baked goods, there's two things I hate - nuts and raisins.  Don't get me wrong - I love nuts (and sometimes raisins), but there's just some things that don't need any added extras.  Like brownies and cookies.  Ok, I take that back - added chocolate is definitely allowed!  But yeah, nuts and raisins - those are a no no in my books.  

Haha - I found this on Pinterest

Anyways, I figured that since I like Snickers bars, and since the peanuts were accompanied by a good portion of chocolate, my brownies would probably turn out just fine.  And they did.  I really liked them.  And I think you'll like them too.



Snickers Brownies

Ingredients:

8 Snickers bars, full sized
1 Box of Brownie mix, plus required ingredients (or your favourite brownie recipe)
Caramel or Toffee dessert sauce

Instructions:

These are super simple to make.  Start off by making the brownie batter according to the directions on the box (or your recipe).  Pour half of it in an 8x8 square baking pan that has been greased or lined with foil, and then place the Snickers bars on top of the brownie batter so they're spaced evenly apart.  You may need to cut a few of them in half so they all fit.  Next, pour a generous dose of caramel/toffee topping over the Snickers bars, before pouring the other half of the brownie batter on top. 


Bake according to the instructions on the box or your recipe.  I prefer my brownies to be extra gooey, so I usually take them out about 5-10 minutes early.


Ta-da!  A simple twist on the regular chocolate brownie!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream


So tomorrow's Valentine's Day, but unless you've been living under a rock I'm sure you already knew that.  But maybe you forgot - so let this be a subtle reminder.  

Have you sorted out what your doing tomorrow?  Flowers, chocolates, a romantic dinner?  I'm afraid I can't help you with any of those, but I can help you make a really delicious dessert!  Remember that birthday cake batter ice cream I made last month?  Well I've updated the recipe for Valentines Day and I'm sharing it with you.  So before you read any further, I suggest you go get your ice cream maker out of storage and get it chilling in the freezer!

When you think of a Valentine's Day dessert, what automatically comes to mind?  I'm just going to assume you said Red Velvet, cuz that's what I'd think of too.  These days it seems like everyone is doing red velvet "something."  I've seen red velvet pancakes, red velvet martinis, red velvet crepes, red velvet fudge, and red velvet brownies.  You name it, I've seen it.  Heck, I've even got an entire board dedicated to the Red Velvet creations I've come across on Pinterest (check it out, and feel free to follow me!)  I've come across one or two red velvet ice cream recipes as well, but nothing at all like this one! 


Unlike the other red velvet ice cream recipes I've seen, my version incorporates red velvet cake mix which gives it's rich red velvet colour and taste, but it's also got big chunks of red velvet cake AND swirls of cream cheese icing inside.  But wait!  There's more!  I've also topped it off with even more gooey cream cheese icing. Oh, and some cute little heart sprinkles just as an added reminder that it's Valentine's Day.  

So do you want to know how to make my Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream?  Well, most importantly you'll need a box of Red Velvet Cake Mix (UK residents, you can order the Red Velvet Cake Mix herehere, or here.)  You'll also need a few other things, so check out the recipe below.


Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream
Serves 2 - feel free to double the recipe, but my ice cream maker only holds a small amount. 

Ingredients: 

1/2 Cup (125ml) Whole Milk 
1/4 Cup (113g) White Sugar 
1 Egg Yolk 
1 tsp Vanilla 
1 Cup (250ml) Double Cream or Whipping Cream 
1/2 Cup Red Velvet Cake Mix, sifted 

1 Cup Cubed Frozen Red Velvet Cake**
Cream Cheese Icing, divided (recipe below)
Sprinkles to garnish

Cream Cheese Icing:

4.5oz (125g) Cream Cheese
1 Cup (130g) Icing Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla


Instructions:  

1.  First you'll need to make your cream cheese icing which will be used as the swirl inside the ice cream, as well as the topping. Combine the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla in a medium sized bowl until smooth.  The icing should be slightly runny, but not watery.  Set aside, until it's ready to be used in step 4.

2.  To make the ice cream mixture, pour the cream and vanilla into a medium sized bowl (one that has a lid), sift in the cake mix and whisk until well combined, set aside.  In a small saucepan whisk the milk, sugar, and egg yolk together until well blended. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat until stirring constantly until it reaches 160ºF (70ºC).  

3.  Remove the mixture from the heat and pour it into the cream and cake mix mixture. Whisk together until well combined.  Put the lid on the bowl, and place in the refrigerator overnight or for several hours until the liquid is cold.  

4. Pour the chilled mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions until it reaches "soft-serve" consistency. Gently stir in the frozen red velvet cake chunks.  Pour 1/2 of the of the ice cream mixture into a plastic container (one that has a lid), and then swirl a few spoons of the cream cheese icing into the mixture.  Pour the other half of the ice cream mixture on top, and then swirl in a few more spoonfuls of the cream cheese icing.  Place the ice cream in the freezer for several hours or overnight until it has firmed up a bit.

5.  When you're ready to serve the ice cream, put a few scoops in a bowl, and top it off with a few more spoonfuls of the cream cheese icing and some sprinkles.  Enjoy!

** I found it was easiest to divide my red velvet cake mix into three equal parts.  Since the cake mix calls for 3 eggs, it's easy to divide the extra required ingredients (oil & water) into three so you can just bake 1/3 of the cake.  I baked my cake in a 8 inch round pan, and froze the round once it was baked.  Then once the cake is frozen, it's really very easy to cut into cubes and then refrozen until you need it for your ice cream.


Oops!  After taking the time to photograph my ice cream it got a little melty!  

Sunday, 12 February 2012

English Cheesecake Company Review


Way back in July I was contacted by the lovely folks over at the English Cheesecake Company, wanting to know if I’d be interested in trying out one of their cheesecakes. Um yeah!!!  How could I turn down cheesecake?  Is that even possible?  Especially considering I was 8 months pregnant at the time.  I had arranged for the cheesecake to be delivered to me in August so I could share it with my friends at my baby shower (I’ve still got to get those posts up btw!).


I couldn’t wait to try one of the cheesecakes from the English Cheesecake Company, as I’d heard a lot about them before over the past few years.  One of my blogging friends Gem, from Cupcake Crazy Gem even works there - how cool is that!!  They’ve got some pretty cool flavours with some pretty inventive names like Cookie Dough Collision, Choccy Woccy Doughnut Cheesecake (yes, it has doughnuts inside the cheesecake!) and Alphonso Mango Coconut Cabana, just to name a few.


Despite a bit of a hiccup with delivery (due to a fault by the courier, not the English Cheesecake Company) I received an absolutely delicious cheesecake just in time for my baby shower.

The cheesecake I was sent was called Honey I’m Comb Golden Nugget (HICGN), and as the name suggests it was loaded on top with chunks of honeycomb candy and even more chocolate covered honeycomb pieces.  The inside of the HICGN cheesecake is studded with pieces of chocolate covered honeycomb and has a delicious biscuit base that was much thicker than found on any cheesecake before.  The staff at the English Cheesecake Company were even nice enough to personalise my cheesecake with a chocolate disc that read “It’s a Boy” (something you can request to have done for birthdays, etc). 


So what did I think of my first cheesecake from the English Cheesecake Company (ECC)?

Well, lets start from the beginning with delivery.  Like I mentioned before, there was an issue with delivery.  Basically the courier failed to deliver my cheesecake on the day it was shipped (a Friday), but luckily my baby shower was on the Sunday so I still had another 2 days before I needed it.  I had been in contact with the ECC to let them know that the cheesecake hadn’t been delivered, so the next day they promptly sent out a new one for me which arrived a few hours later.  Talk about great customer service! A few hours later the original cheesecake also arrived, but it had been sitting in the couriers warehouse overnight and arrived smooshed and inedible. Thank goodness for that second one!

This was the first time I had ever had a frozen food item shipped to me, and I was really impressed by how well it was packaged.  The cheesecake was shipped in an insulated styrofoam box with a few packages of dry ice to keep it frozen.  My only gripe was that although there was a tall plastic sleeve around the outside of the cheesecake, there was nothing covering the top of it, so some of the honeycomb pieces on the top of the cake had shifted and some had been shaken off into the box, so I had to replace them as best I could when I unpacked it.


The instructions that came with the cheesecake said to keep it in the freezer, and then take it out of the box and thaw a few hours before serving, but I didn’t have enough space in my freezer to do that so I kept it in the fridge overnight.  Unfortunately because I did this, when I took it out of the box to display the next day condensation had built up in the box as well as on the chocolate disc which slightly discoloured it (you can see this in the photos).  I don’t think this would have been a problem if I didn’t have the chocolate disc on top, so if you plan on ordering a cheesecake without a disc then I really wouldn’t worry too much.

As for the actual flavour and texture of the cheesecake, I thought they were terrific.  One thing I didn’t really realise until a couple of years ago is that unlike the North American cheesecakes I’m used to, UK cheesecakes are not baked so they have a slightly different texture, and often aren’t as tall.  This cheesecake was light and fluffy, and I really loved the added crunch of the honeycomb pieces inside.  Normally I’m not a fan of really thick biscuit bases, but this one was really nice.  It wasn’t too crumbly, which meant I could easily get it onto my fork and into my mouth.  My guests also thought the cheesecake was delicious, and when my husband got home and had a slice he couldn’t stop raving about it.  


So would I order another cheesecake from the English Cheesecake Company?  Yes!  I would, as I thought it was really delicious and I honestly think that the delivery mix up was a one of.  The English Cheesecake Company has so many delicious flavours to choose from, that I’d have a hard time picking which one to get.  They’re also a good size, and would accurately serve the 12 people stated on the website.  


New flavours are constantly being developed and introduced, as well as seasonal flavours and ones special occasions.  With Valentines Day and Mothers Day quickly approaching, one of these cheesecakes would make the perfect dessert to serve. 
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