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Cupcakes for Bonfire Night

So I’m conscious that I often blog about the differences between baking in North America and the UK, and now that we’re entering the holiday season I can tell you right now I’m going to do it even more.  After growing up in Canada, and experiencing over 25 Thanksgivings, Halloweens, Christimas’ and other holidays I can’t help but compare my Canadian heritage & holiday traditions with my newly found UK ones.  I’ll elaborate more on the differences in the coming weeks when I start to do my Christmas baking, but for now I’m still getting over Halloween.  As I’ve mentioned before, Halloween is considered to be a fairly recent “holiday” here in the UK, and trick or treating and pumpkin carving are increasing in popularity every year.  Back when I was much younger I remember someone telling me that Halloween was a North American holiday and that they celebrated something called Guy Fawkes Day (aka Bonfire Night) in the UK, and instead of trick or treating they held bonfires across the country.  To be honest, I thought that going to a bonfire instead of trick or treating sounded a bit lame.  But c’mon – when your 12 years old a lot of things sound a bit lame.  Even if it really is super cool, and you just don’t want to admit it. 
For those of you who don’t know the story behind Bonfire Night (which is probably most people living outside the UK), it all comes down to a foiled attempt by a man called Guy Fawkes who tried to overthrow the King of England by blowing up the London Houses of Parliament way back on November 5th 1605. (I’d suggest watching the movie V for Vendetta, to learn more about Guy Fawkes and the Gun Powder Plot).  Shortly after the incident the public began to make their own “Guys” using old clothes, crumpled paper and straw.  The Guy was then thrown on top of a bonfire to burn, and fireworks were set off while the public celebrated the foiled gun powder plot.   
 Photo courtesy of Brockham Bonfire
Fast forward 405 years and Bonfire Night is still going strong.  It’s also quickly becoming one of my favourite UK traditions.  The first year I moved here my husband and I had no idea what Bonfire Night was, so we just stayed at home like an old married couple wondering why all the fireworks were going off.  Last year we were fortunate enough to be informed about Bonfire Night, and which bonfires were the best ones to go to.  It turned out the the bonfire with the largest and most expensive fireworks show in all of the UK was pretty close to where we live.  We had no idea what to expect, except that we should dress warmly and arrive super early in order to get one of the coveted 200 parking lot spaces.  Each year the Brockham Bonfire attracts close to 25,000 people, so 200 parking spaces to share amongst the crowd is a little insufficient.  But hey, that’s part of the charm of the whole event.  It takes place in a tiny little village green that’s not much bigger than a skating rink.  Well that night were absolutely amazed with what we saw and vowed to go back again the next year. 
And that’s exactly what we did!  This past Saturday (November 6th to be exact) we went back to the Brockham Bonfire and we were not disappointed. We arrived at 4:30 in order to get that all important parking spot (there’s no parking on the road, so many people walk for miles along dark single lane back roads to get there). There’s not a whole lot to do before the bonfire and fireworks get under way at 7:45, but they do sell food like BBQ’d hamburgers, hot dogs, freshly roast pig, etc. At about 6:30 a procession starts with some of the local people dressing up in traditional costumes.  The people carry flaming torches and pull the giant “Guy” in a wagon throughout the village for nearly an hour while a marching band plays.  As the procession returns to the starting point, even more people join in and everyone is given a flaming torch.  They circle around the bonfire pile and wait for the giant Guy Fawkes to be hoisted up on top of the bonfire.  There’s something eerily creepy about hundreds of people approaching you with flaming torches!  It’s like your actually in an old fashioned horror movie.  Once the all clear is given, everyone throws their flaming torch onto the bonfire pile and it quickly goes up in flames.  The Guy is stuffed with fire crackers, so once the flames reach the top hundreds of loud pops and bangs start to go off. These firecrackers signal the start of the fireworks, and we witnessed one of the most amazing fire works shows we’ve ever seen. 
 
I think the thing that makes bonfire night so special for me, is that back in North America there would be no way in hell hundreds of people would be allowed to parade through town with flaming torches before lighting fire to a 30 foot bonfire pile. The whole Bonfire Night tradition is a very civilized family event.  Everyone joins in, and the same families have been helping to build and put on the bonfire and firework shows for generations.  
So in honor of Bonfire Night I made some special cupcakes to celebrate.  These are super easy, and you only need a few things to make them. 
Bonfire Night Cupcakes

Cupcakes of your choice 
White icing 
Black, red & orange food colouring 
Pretzel Sticks* or chocolate sticks 
Pop Rocks 
 
1. Start out by dividing your white icing into 3 bowls.  Tint one bowl grey, one red, and the last one orange.  Cover the top of your cupcake in grey icing (it doesn’t have to be smooth) this will be the “ashes” on your cupcake. 

2. Gently combine the orange and red icing into one bowl so that it’s slightly swirled together. Make sure not to mix the icing together too much – you don’t want the colours to totally blend together.  Spoon the red & orange icing mixture onto the center of your cupcake, making sure to build the icing up into a little peak. These are the bonfire flames. Now sprinkle on some red & orange pop rocks over top of the icing flame, and you’re almost done. 
3. Finally, take some pretzel sticks and lay each one over the icing flame to create a bonfire pyramid.  That’s it!  You’re done.  Told you they were easy!  Not only are these a really great tradition to make on Bonfire Night, but the addition of pop rocks even makes the cupcakes sound like they’re really popping and burning! 
*Note: They don’t normally sell pretzel sticks in the UK, but I’ve been able to find them in the local Polish shops (along with Cheetos brand cheezies – oh yeah!). If you can’t find pretzel sticks, don’t worry.  There’s lots of other things you can use to look like sticks or logs such as Twiglets, Mikados, Matchmakers, etc.  
These cupcakes are really cute, and are perfect for kids to make each year as a Bonfire Night treat. Since I’ve only lived in the UK for just 2.5 years I’m not aware of any other traditional Bonfire Night treats, but I’m sure there are lots.  Do you have any favourites?

Raspberry Ripple Fudgesicles


Have I mentioned before that the summer weather in the UK has been relatively non-existant?  I’m not lying, it’s been dreadful.  Thankfully I managed to escape the clouds and rain with a few holidays to sunnier destinations (unfortunately not the ones with palm trees).  


Most recently I returned home from my annual birthday trip to Paris, which just happens to be my favourite city in the world.  I just love it.  We go every year and spend the entire time just wandering around through all the different neighbourhoods, stopping every few minutes to press our noses up against the window of yet another patisserie shop to admire the beautiful cakes and pastries on display.  Paris pastries are a thing of beauty.  I love them, and plan to try and recreate a few that really caught my eye while we were there.  


We’ve been lucky enough to have a few hot days in the UK recently, so I thought I’d break out my Zoku Quick Pop Maker while I had the chance.  For those of you not familiar with the Zoku, it’s a popsicle (ice lolly) maker that allows you to make your own frozen pops in under 10 minutes.  The flavour combinations you can make with the Zoku are endless. And because they freeze so quickly, you’re able to layer them and even make filled ones like the creamsicles that were my favourite when I was a kid.

Another of my favourites were fudgesicles – a dense and chocolatey frozen pop, chock full of deliciousness.  They don’t have fudgesicles in the UK, and I’d been dying for one every summer since I moved here.  I’d also been dying for a slice of a raspberry and chocolate tart that I’d seen in one of the patisserie windows while I was in Paris.  Except I’d only been “dying” for a slice of that for a week, not four years like the fudgesicle.  With all that dying going on it’s amazing I’m still alive.  I’m so dramatic. 

In the end I combined my two death wishes into one, and came up with something pretty amazing.  I’m calling it the raspberry ripple fudgesicle.  It’s the perfect combination of slightly tart raspberries and fudgey chocolate.  


The only thing I have to caution you about with these raspberry ripple fudgesicles is that they don’t freeze as quickly as most other popsicle recipes, but that’s what makes them fudgey.

To make these you’ll need to freeze your Zoku pop maker for at least 24hrs as recommended by the manufacturer, and then follow the recipe below:

Raspberry Ripple Fudgesicles
Makes 6 Zoku Pops

Ingredients:

20g Dark Chocolate
1 1/4 Cups Chocolate Milk
2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
1 Tbsp Corn Syrup (or Golden Syrup)
6 Tbsp Sugar
1/8 tsp Vanilla

1 1/2 Cups Raspberries (fresh or thawed from frozen)
3-4 Tbsp Sugar 

Instructions:

1.  Chill Zoku Pop Maker for a minimum of 24hrs in the freezer

2. Melt the dark chocolate over medium heat in a small saucepan, and then add the chocolate milk, cocoa powder, corn syrup, sugar and vanilla.  Stir until well combined and continue to heat until all the ingredients are well dissolved.  Do not bring to a boil.  Pour into a sealable container and refrigerate until cold – approximately 3 hours (this will speed up the freezing process).

3.  While your chocolate mixture is chilling, combine the raspberries and sugar (feel free to adjust the amount of sugar to suit your taste) together and puree using a blender.  Set aside.

4.  Once your chocolate mixture is fully cool, get your two mixtures ready and take your Zoku pop maker out of the fridge and place the sticks in as your normally would.  Pour approximately 2-3 tablespoons of  the chocolate mixture directly into the bottom of each cavity of the Zoku maker.  Wait several minutes until the chocolate mixture is thoroughly frozen.  Next your 1-2 tablespoons of the raspberry mixture into each cavity and wait for them the freeze.  Repeat the same steps as your did previously  in order to create the frozen layered pops.  Make sure your pops are thoroughly frozen before attempting to remove them.  If they’re not frozen enough the pops will not release from the Zoku pop maker properly.  Repeat above steps with the remainder of your ingredients.

*If you are impatient like I was and don’t wait for each layer to freeze fully before pouring the next, you’ll get the wonky pattern that’s shown in the photos.  The first time I made these, I waited longer in between pouring each of the layers which resulted in perfectly flat and level layers.


So there you have it – my own twist on a French and a Canadian classic, both blended together to make one delicious frozen treat.  Now all we have to do is wish for the sun to find it’s way back to the UK!

Gourmet S’mores

The weather here in the UK has been positively dismal.  Having just returned to soggy ol’ England from holiday in Toronto where the weather was 38°C (100°F) has only reinforced the fact that our summer so far has been absolutely crappy. 
It was so nice to get away and spend some time in a tropical climate – even if it was on the beaches and streets of Toronto, and not the Caribbean.  No visit back home to Canada is complete without some serious food (ingredient) shopping.  I always return to the UK with a suitcase full of North American treats that are hard to find in UK stores.  I made numerous visits to a fantastic bulk food shop where I stocked up on sprinkles and candy melts –  almost an entire carry on suitcase full!  I also visited Golda’s Kitchen – the most amazing cake supply store, thanks to a recommendation from Jodie Whitley via the Made With Pink Facebook page (I’ll be posting pictures of the cake shop and my holiday purchase on my facebook page shortly!)
A few days before I left on holiday I decided to perk myself up and get into the summer spirit by making some gourmet s’mores (sans campfire) using some of the ingredients I’d picked up from my previous holiday to the States. 
I’d had a few bags of speciality marshmallows and a couple boxes of graham crackers sitting on my baking shelf for the past few months,  I’d always intended to use them for gourmet s’mores, but I just never got around to it until now.  Plus I needed to make room for my new impending purchases!


I made four different s’more combinations:
Pina Colada:  Original graham crackers sandwiched together with white chocolate, pineapple & toasted coconut marshmallows, and a slice of freshly grilled pineapple. 
Chocolate Mint:  Chocolate graham crackers sandwiched together with mint chocolate marshmallows and dark mint chocolate.

Peanut Butter Cup:  Chocolate graham crackers sandwiched together with flat vanilla marshmallows and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.


Salted Caramel:  Chocolate graham crackers sandwiched together with caramel flavoured chocolate callets, flat vanilla marshmallows and a spoon full french salted butter caramel (not pictured).


Don’t think you can’t make these if you don’t live in the US, or don’t have the graham crackers or fancy marshmallows.  I’ve seen toasted coconut marshmallows in the UK before in several stores, and most recently I’ve been able to find them in the South African grocery stores near my home.  Regular marshmallows will work just as well in all of these s’mores, but my tip is to cut them in half so they lay flat instead of standing tall like they normally would.  All of the chocolate I used is from the UK, and is available in any major grocery store with the exception of the caramel callets which were a gift from my March Foodie Penpal who bought them in a local shop in Manchester.  If you don’t have the caramel callets or the salted butter caramel, then you can use the new flat Rolo chocolate bars that have just been launched for sale in the UK. 

As for the graham crackers, you can make your own at home by following the recipe here that I used to make my mini s’more pops a couple of years ago.
To make the s’mores you’ll need the above ingredients and an oven.  If the UK weather ever gets better then you can make them the way they were originally intended – with a camp fire.  But until then you’ll need to pre-heat your oven to 200°C (400°F).  


Assemble your s’mores together and wrap them in a square of aluminum foil (this will ensure your chocolate and marshmallow don’t melt and ooze out the sides of your graham crackers and into the oven.)  Place them in the hot oven for 3-5 minutes before removing.  Carefully unwrap each s’more and enjoy – just make sure you don’t burn yourself on the hot gooey marshmallow and chocolate!

I think that the salted caramel s’mores were my favourite out of the bunch.  They were so so soooo good, but also very rich.  I couldn’t have eaten more than one.  I also really liked the Pina Colada ones, they were so different from any other s’more I’d made.  I only got to try a small bite of the chocolate mint s’more before my husband gobbled it up.  As for the Reese’s s’more, while it was good, it wasn’t my favourite.  I’d still prefer to eat the Reese’s cup by it self.

What other unique flavours of s’mores have you made?  Do you have any other suggestions for me??

Making Your Own Easter Chocolates

A couple of weeks ago while I was away on holiday introducing my 7 month old son to his grandparents in Canada, the lovely folks over at Lakeland contacted me to see if I’d like to try some of their new Easter chocolate making supplies.  Heck yeah!  I love making my own chocolate, and used to do it all of the time back in Canada.  In fact, one of the places on my “to go list” while I was back home was my local cake and chocolate supply store so I could pick up some chocolate making supplies.  So you know what that means – obviously the people at Lakeland are mind readers!  


What a nice surprise it was coming home to a big box full of chocolate making goodies!  There were several different chocolate moulds – little ducks (complete with bow ties), bunny pops, bunnies, ducks and eggs, and an extra large egg mould.  There was also a chocolate melting pot, some cute little treat boxes and a super helpful silicone spatula with a built in thermometer – intended for chocolate making, but I think it would be perfect for custard type recipes.  I didn’t even know such a thing existed! 


There was so many fun goodies to play with, it was hard to decide what to make first.  I settled on the little ducks so that I could play around with the coloured Wilton candy melts that I had accumulated over the past few months.


The green duck mould is a Lakeland exclusive.  The ducks themselves were quite a bit larger than the ones in the mixed Easter shape mould (containing bunnies, ducks and eggs) by Silkomat.  The design of Lakeland’s green duck mould gives a more childish feel to the characters compared to the Silkomat mould.  It also provides a bit more depth to the ducks as well, which means that you can have some real fun decorating the chocolates using different colours of candy melts like I did.  


I often use little brushes to paint the coloured chocolates into my moulds, but I couldn’t find any laying around so instead I just used some toothpicks to “paint” the small areas with the coloured candy melts and this seemed to work just fine.  I used some regular chocolate in the red melting pot to fill the bunny and smaller duck moulds.  It was really quite useful, although a bit small so I would have to refill it numerous times if I used it for some of the larger chocolates.


Both of these moulds had a nice smooth silicone finish on the inside which allowed for the chocolates to come away effortlessly, and also provided a smooth and shiny finish.


I packed the ducks and bunnies into the little treat boxes that Lakeland sent so I could give them for the kids at the BBQ we’re going to on the weekend.  Each treat box holds about 3 of the larger ducks, or 5 of the smaller bunnies.


As for the bunny pop mould….  Well to be honest the design kind of creeped me out a bit with it’s squiggly mouth, so I changed the mouth design using some melted chocolate into something a little less off putting.   I was also surprised to discover that the mould was made of metal.  I’ve never seen a chocolate mould like this one before – it was almost like a teeny tiny non-stick baking pan of mini bunny heads (I forgot to take a picture of this).  I made half of the bunnies using plain white chocolate melts and the other half using a combination of white melts and confetti melts. When it came time to remove the bunnies from the moulds, they didn’t come out nearly as easily as the ones from the silicone moulds.  In fact, out of the 6 bunnies I made only 3 came out in tact as the top layer of the other 3 stuck to the mould.  If the mould was made of silicone or clear plastic it would have been flexible enough to twist and release the bunny pops.  Oh well, the kids that I’m giving them to won’t even notice!


The giant Easter egg mould, and trays of mini eggs were closer to the types of chocolate moulds I’ve used in the past.  I like these types of moulds the best because they’re see through which allows me to look at the bottom of the mould in order to ensure that my chocolates don’t have any air bubbles in them.  There’s nothing worse than an air bubble on the surface of your chocolates.  You can get rid of air bubbles by tapping your filled chocolate moulds on a hard surface like the counter top.  Do this several times and you’ll be able to see them rise to the surface and pop.  This will also help to level out and spread your chocolate to all areas of the mould.


The giant and mini eggs were easy to make since I was only using one type of Chocolate.  I used Waitrose own brand milk chocolate because it would taste a lot nicer than the Wilton candy melts.  The only issue was that it was that the chocolate quite soft, especially considering my flat was so warm that it was hard to touch the eggs without them starting to melt.  I filled my giant egg with some of the smaller eggs, a few ducks and I threw in some Easter Peanut Butter M&M eggs for a bit of added colour.  


After I took these pictures I re-chilled my giant egg and made a few more ducks and chocolate mini eggs to put inside before I glued the 2 halves together with some meted chocolate.  I wrapped a blue sheer ribbon around the egg to hide where the two halves met, which really polished off the look.  Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture!  I didn’t use the thermo spatula this time, but I can definitely see it coming in handy for loads of other things so I will let you know how I get on with it soon! 


Thanks again to Lakeland for letting me have a play around with all their fun Easter stuff! I had a great time making these chocolate, and my family and friends will no doubt have a great time eating them! 

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!