Search Results for: Bake Swap

Surprise Foodie Packages

I’ve had the pleasure of receiving two great foodie packages in the post recently.  The first package was my June Foodie Penpals package (I usually post about these on the first of each month) and was sent to me by Fay from the blog Food Fables.  I was Fay’s first Foodie Penpal, and she did a great job choosing the things in my package.  She sent me some pink strawberry flavoured candy melts that I’ll most definitely be using for some kind of cake pop or other creation.  Also included was some of my most favourite gummy candies that you can get at Asian supermarkets – the ones Fay sent me were Mango flavoured, but they come in loads of other flavours.  I used to get these all the time when I lived in Canada where they were more widely available.  How did Fay know I liked these???  Fay also included some other Asian foods – an instant noodle pouch – great for a last minute meal, and some chilli paste which I have to admit scares the crap out of me because it looks so potent.  I’ll definitely be using it in some stir frys and sauces, but I must make sure to use it sparingly!  Fay also sent some Strawberry and pepper vinegar that her mum’s friend made.  I haven’t used it yet, but I’m sure it would be delicious on salads.  Not sure what else it might be good for – any suggestions?


I sent my Foodie penpal package to Emily who runs the Bristol Bites website.  Emily said she preferred savoury things rather than sweet so I sent her one of my favourite finds.  It’s a packaged Pad Thai kit that comes with noodles, sauce and spices, and just requires you to add your meat of choice and an egg.  I discovered these Pad Thai kits recently and I think they’re great and can taste quite authentic with the addition of a tablespoon or two of peanut butter mixed in.  I also sent Emily a mini tub of roasted garlic sea salt (I also bought one for me because it looked so good – my husband’s tried it already and says it’s great on steak), and some sweet chilli Ryvita mini’s for snacking.  Finally I felt that I had to include one sweet thing, so I sent Emily some Jules Destrooper chocolate coated cookies that looked really good.  I haven’t tried them, but I wish I had bought myself a package as well!


The second foodie package I received were some delightful little hand decorated cookies in the shape of cupcakes.  These cookies were made for me by Rachel of the blog Blissfully Scrumptious, and were part of a bake swap organised by my friend Sarah of Maison Cupcake to celebrate the launch of her new book titled Bake Me I’m Yours, Sweet Bitesize Bakes. I love the idea of swapping baked goods centred around a common theme (mini bakes) and seeing what everyone comes up with.  The cookies that Rachel baked for me were a vanilla butter cookie that were decorated with white chocolate as the cupcake icing and then fondant bases, with perfect tiny cupcakes added on top which I think were made with royal icing.  The cookies are delicious, and I was so excited when I got home from work and noticed the box in the hallway that I couldn’t wait to unpack it.  Seriously – if you saw me trying to unwrap it you’d think I’d received a Gucci handbag or something!  I was so pleased to see that all the cookies arrived perfectly in tact – not a crumb/crumble to be seen!


As for my baked item, I sent Rachel some mini cupcakes I decorated with pastel fondant and mini sugar paste flowers and pearls.  It was the first time I made fondant covered cupcakes, and I was really pleased with the way they turned out.  I’ll be posting a tutorial on them soon, so check back for that.  Never in my life have I been so worried about sending something through the post.  At least with my foodie penpal packages, things are generally far less fragile, and I haven’t put a whole lot of time and effort into personal making each individual item.  I was dying to know if my cupcakes survived their journey to Dorset through the mail, and sent a tweet out to everyone on Twitter to see if they knew a potential food blogger by the name of Rachel who lived in Dorset – (we weren’t told if our bake swap mate was also a blogger).  Sure enough within a few minutes a response was tweeted to me, and Rachel and I were united via Twitter where we thanked each other for our baked treats and I was assured that my cupcakes did indeed arrive in tact.  Phew!  My packaging job had worked!


I really hope that the Bake Swap continues on a regular basis, as I had a great time making and receiving my mini bakes. Keep an eye out on the Maison Cupcake blog to see if there is another instalment of bake swap.

And if you’re interested in becoming a Foodie Penpal you can find more information and sign up through the Rock Salt Blog here if you’re in the UK & Europe, or through the Lean Green Bean Blog here is your in the US & Canada.

Queens Diamond Jubilee Hat Cookies


When I was living in Canada I was always a little envious of our patriotic American neighbours.    To many outsiders their patriotic enthusiasm seemed overly excessive and brash, but as a Canadian kid I looked on in amazement.  They took any opportunity they could get to plaster their flag on anything and everything, and I often wondered why Canadians didn’t do the same. 

The patriotic differences really became apparent when July rolled around.  Canada celebrates their birthday with a national holiday on July 1st, while the US celebrates theirs on July 4th.  The Americans always seemed to have loads of festive activities going on like parades, barbecues, block parties and amazing firework shows, while Canadians seemed relatively unfazed by their national day.  Don’t get me wrong – Canadians definitely do celebrate Canada Day with a few fireworks and the odd picnic, and as Vancouver showed during the Olympics, Canadians are extremely proud of their country, but we don’t always shout about it from the rooftops like our southern neighbours do.  

Some of the patriotic things that always caught my eye were all the fun American themed desserts and products that seemed to pop up during the weeks approaching July 4th.  A large part of it I’m sure, was a result of savvy marketing, but the other part was down to sheer patriotism.  

I remember flipping through magazines (most of the magazines were American) and watching programmes like Live! and Martha Stewart and thinking how pretty the desserts and crafts that they were featuring looked in red, white and blue.  For some reason red and white (Canada’s colours) never seemed as much fun.  

With the upcoming Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (marking the 60 year reign of Queen Elizabeth) in a few weeks, it appears that the whole of the UK has gone jubilee crazy.  And I couldn’t be more excited about it!  It’s such a nice feeling to see Union Jacks everywhere – on grocery packaging, home decor, magazines and loads and loads of CAKES! 

It’s so nice to see the whole country getting excited about their heritage and celebrating it with a little red, white and blue.  And I especially love it because it’s the perfect excuse for me to do some fun and festive baking – just like I always wished I could have done when I was younger!

I’ve come up with a few Jubilee themed desserts – one of them was this Jubilee Dome Cake with red and blue flowers and a golden crown that I posted last week.  


I’ve also made these little Jubilee hat cookies inspired by the Queen herself!  It’s no secret that the Queen is a fan of her hats – they even took bets here in England on what colour hat she would wear to Will and Kate’s wedding last year!  

I got the original idea for these cookies from the fabulous book Cookie Swap, and then borrowed a few tips from Bakerella who also made them a couple years ago for Easter.  

I loved making these cookies – they were so fun and easy to make, and I really think they’re just perfect to help celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  Seriously – how cute would they  look alongside a nice cup of tea, or arranged together on a stand at your local street party.

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Hat Cookies

To make these cookies you’ll need a few things:


Sugar cookie dough – I use Peggy Porcshen’s recipe that can be found in this post here.
A small amount of Royal Icing – Peggy Porcshen’s recipe that can be found in this post here.
Double sided pastry cutters – I used these.  
Mini flower plunger cutters – I used these
White fondant – I used white Renshaw brand
Sugar paste / flower paste – I used Squires Kitchen Sugar Floral Paste
White nonpareils 

Instructions:

1.  Make your sugar cookie dough according to the recipe and instructions here.  Once your dough is chilled, roll it out to the appropriate thickness (about 4 or 5mm).  Using the scalloped edge of the 68mm (2 5/8″) round pastry cutter, cut out as many circles as you think you’d like hats.  These will be the base of your hats.  I think you could make at least 20 hats with the cookie dough recipe – probably more.  Next, use the 38mm (1 1/2″) plain edged round cutter to cut out twice the number of circles as you did with the scalloped cutter.  These will make up the top of your hats, and each hat top requires two smaller circles. Bake according to the instructions in my original recipe post, and then cool.

2.  While your cookies are baking you can start to make the little sugar paste flowers that will decorate the brim of the hats.  Take a small amount of the Sugar Floral Paste and tint it whatever colour you’d like – I used Wilton gel paste colours.  Roll the sugar paste out, and use the flower cutters to cut out various sizes of flowers. It’s easy – honest!  I used some royal icing to attach the white nonpareils to the inside of the flower, but if you don’t have any nonpareils, then a dab of royal icing will do just fine. Set the flowers aside to dry.

3.  Once your cookies are nice and cool you’ll need to start building your hats.  First you’ll need to roll our your fondant, and use the same sized scalloped edge pastry cutter you used for the base of the cookies to cut out the fondant circles that will sit on top.  Use the end of a paintbrush or chopstick to make small indents around the scalloped edge.  Put a little royal icing on the scalloped cookies and then place the matching fondant pieces on top making sure to line up the scalloped edges.

To make the second part of the hat you’ll need to glue two of the smaller circles together by adding a dab or two of royal icing on the top of one of the small circles.  Next, use another dollop of royal icing to fix the bottom of the smaller stacked circle to the scalloped fondant covered cookie base.  Using the small cookie cutter, cut out enough fondant circles to cover the tops of the smaller circle stacks.  


Next you’ll need to cut some fondant strips to wrap around the stack of small cookies – use a small ruler to make sure the fondant strip is the same width as the cookie stacks, and long enough to wrap around them.  Fix the strips around the cookies using royal icing.  Use your fingers to smooth out the fondant strips and blend them into the fondant tops.

Lastly, it’s time to add your sugar paste flowers – simply glue them on in whatever arrangement you like, and there you have it – little Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Hats!


I’m sure it’s pretty safe to say that these hat cookies will likely end up inside your tummy – but I’d really like to know what’s happened to all of the Queen’s own hats?  Seriously – Buckingham Palace must have one gigantic room filled with 60 years worth of the Queen’s hats!


Because my hat cookies have flowers on them, I’m also sending them over to The Tea Time Treats monthly challenge hosted this month by Karen of the blog Lavender and Loveage, and other months by Kate of What Kate Baked.  This month’s theme is floral, so I think they’re a perfect fit!

Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

I love peanut butter.  I really do.  In fact most North Americans love it, but the British – well let’s just say they’ve got mixed feelings about it.  I’ll eat anything with peanut butter in it. Granola bars, sandwiches, ice cream, cookies, soups, noodles, chicken satay, anything – I love it all.  For me, peanut butter and chocolate is the ultimate combination, but this isn’t the case for a lot of my friends in the UK.  Upon moving here I discovered that peanut butter is more commonly associated with savoury dishes such as Pad Thai, and not with sweet things like it is in North America.  About a year ago I remember trying to convince a friend to try one of my peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes, but they wouldn’t even try one because they found the flavour combination far to strange and repulsive.  Well – if anyone reading this finds peanut butter and chocolate a repulsive combination (and if you weren’t already turned off by my previous post) I’m warning you – STOP reading this right now. There. I’ve warned you.
To show you how crazy Americans are about peanut butter, I took the first picture below at a Target store in Texas.  The second picture is of the peanut butter selection in a UK Tesco store. In America it’s all about variety.  I’ve found that American companies don’t usually remove items from their product lines, instead they’ll just add to them.  In the UK they’re more likely to remove a product and replace it with another one.  Unless that product is tea. If it’s tea, they’ll just go ahead and add another 10 flavours to the product line. 

American peanut butter selection: Smooth, crunchy, extra crunchy, honey roasted, reduced fat, natural, organic, omega 3, peanut butter & jam swirl, peanut butter & white chocolate, peanut butter & dark chocolate and peanut butter & banana.

  

UK peanut butter selection:  Smooth & crunchy.  If your lucky you’ll find natural, and maybe even organic. The store pictured above is a big one, so it stocks all varieties.  Chocolate and hazelnut spreads are more popular here.

When I lived in Canada Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were my favourite chocolate bar (even though they’re not really a chocolate bar at all).  Every time I passed the candy section of a store here in the UK I’d be on the look out for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  My search went on for over a year without any luck, so I just figured they weren’t available.  I was pleased to discover that I was wrong, and that they did actually exist.  I was just looking in the wrong place.  Well – actually I think I was looking in the right place, but some strange person in charge of super market planning decided to put them in the wrong place!  For some reason Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are kept in the cookie (biscuit) aisle at the grocery store.  Why?  I have no idea! These are not cookies.  I mean really? Who thinks they’re cookies?  Thankfully, my mind is now at ease knowing that I am able to indulge in a peanut butter cup whenever I want, and I no longer have to wait until I go back home to stock up on them.  I’ve even found a local shop that stocks Reese’s Pieces.  I doubt I’ll ever find one of my favourite North American cereals here in the UK though – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cereal.  Yes, that’s right!  North Americans put their candy bars in cereal form.  There’s no better way to start the day!  Good thing I still have a box of Reese’s cereal from my last trip to the US.  And look at the top right corner, the box even says it’s good for you!  “Nutritional Highlights” – it’s got vitamins and everything!  Ha!  Yeah right…
 
I was so ecstatic about my recent peanut butter cup discovery that they inspired my next cupcake.  A Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cupcake!  A rich chocolate cupcake with fluffy whipped peanut butter frosting and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup tucked inside.  Delicious!  I had originally intended on making these cupcakes for July’s Iron Cupcake London competition, but it was cancelled.  Luckily one of my fellow Iron Cupcake bakers decided that it would be nice to have a cupcake get together anyway.  Due to some last minute cancellations it was a small gathering, but very enjoyable none the less.  Kelly made some delicious coconut cupcakes that were dipped in pink and milk chocolate, Gem made some really good snickers cupcakes topped with rocky road, and Tamara made some yummy lemon and lime cupcakes.   I had a really nice time chatting about cupcakes with the girls, and at the end of the night we all swapped cupcakes.  We each went home with a nice selection, and since I was on the verge of a cupcake overdose I brought them all into work with me the next day where they were quickly gobbled up with rave reviews.   

Below are my Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup cupcakes.  I topped them off with peanut butter frosting and a chocolate peanut butter crunch. These are probably one of my favourite cupcakes, and they’re so easy to make.  
 
 Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

1 1/8 cups (255g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (55g) Cocoa
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (100g) granulated white sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) milk, plus2 tbs milk
1/4 cup warm water
2 tbs brewed coffee
1/2 cup (125ml) melted butter
12 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (not the mini ones)

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC)
2.  Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners, and place a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup in the bottom of each paper liner.
3. In one bowl sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, brown sugar, and white sugar. Then whisk in the milk, coffee, and melted butter.
5. Add in the dry ingredients until well mixed.
6.Divide the batter evenly among 12 cupcake molds. Fill about three-quarters full.
7. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle of the cupcakes comes out clean.

For the frosting simply whip in some smooth (not natural) peanut butter into your regular buttercream icing and pipe on top of your cooled cupcakes.  The result is a moist and delicious chocolate cupcake with a peanut butter surprise at the bottom and a nice creamy peanut butter frosting on top.