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Blondes vs Brunettes

Blondes vs Brunettes – who has more fun?  It’s an age old question, but has anyone ever come up with a solid answer?  I’m afraid I’ll never be able to come up with the answer because I’m a blonde.  Always have been, always will be.  BUT – I could definitely try to answer that question with a totally unscientific experiment that came straight from my kitchen.

So let’s ask ourselves the question again: Who What is more fun? The Blondie or the Brownie?


As I was in the process of making the Baked Brownies I posted about earlier, I decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to compare brownies vs blondies, and see which one comes out on top.  Ever since I returned from the US in March I’d had an idea to make a rich and chewy coconut blondie that would make use of my last and final coveted big bag of Coconut M&M’s.  If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen me tweeting my rave reviews of the Coconut M&M.  They’re probably my favourite M&M (aside from the peanut butter ones), and I really wish they’d bring them to the UK. The M&M’s themselves are coconut flavoured chocolate and come in white, brown and green colours. Oh, and they also have cute little palm trees and beach umbrellas printed on them!  Perhaps when the huge M&M World store opens up in London this summer we may have a chance of readily buying them in the UK.  Until then you can get them in  specialty stores that sell American candy, as well as online here via Amazon UK.


I combined the Coconut M&M’s together with toasted coconut and white chocolate chips to create a deliciously sweet and chewy blondie that definitely put a challenge to it’s rival brownie.  

So, who won the battle?  Well, although they were both absolutely delicious I knew going in that the blondies had a slight edge over the brownies when they sat side by side on our kitchen counter, and my husband couldn’t stop eating the blondies.  And he doesn’t even like coconut!!!  I brought both of them into work with me the next day and let my co-workers do the talking.  It was a tough decision, but judging by the positive reviews that I received on both of them, I think that the blondies won.  Perhaps it was because although the Baked Chocolate Brownies were super good, the Coconut M&M blondies were a totally different flavour experience than anyone had ever had before.  Either way, whatever you choose be it blondies or brownies you’re bound to have fun making  – and eating these!  


Coconut M&M White Chocolate Blondies

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup (170g) Butter, softened
1 1/2 Cups (300g) Brown Sugar, firmly packed
2 Large Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste, (vanilla extract will work as well)
1 1/2 Cups (188g) Flour
1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup Toasted Coconut
1 Cup Coconut M&M’s, plus 1/3 Cup for sprinkling on top
1/2 Cup White Chocolate Chips

Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9 (roughly 33cm x 23cm) baking pan , or spray with cooking spray.  (I prefer to line my pan with greased parchment paper so I can lift the whole tray of brownies out and cut them.  It’s so much easier than trying to cut them in the pan!)  

2.  In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.  In a large bowl combine the butter and brown sugar, and beat until light and fluffy.  Next add in the eggs one at a time, beating well before adding the next one to ensure they don’t curdle with the butter mixture.  Mix in the vanilla.

3.  Fold in the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined.  Next, fold in the coconut, M&M’s and white chocolate chips until combined throughout.  Spread evenly into your prepared baking pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 – 40 mins, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs on it.   Cool the brownies on a rack completely before cutting.  *Just like the Baked Brownies, I had to cook my blondies for slightly longer (closer to 40 minutes) because my pan was a tad smaller than a standard 13×9 pan.  If you lined your pan with greased parchment paper like I did, let the brownies cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before lifting them out onto a cooling rack.


So, what do you think?  Who has more fun? Blondes or Brunettes?  I’ll let you decide!


Made With Pink’s Christmas Gift Guide

With Christmas just around the corner, I couldn’t help but pull together a list of my top must have gifts that I either own – or would like to see under my tree this year.  Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely LOVE shopping. I’m drawn to anything cute, pink or whimsical, so narrowing down my top gift picks was difficult!  I was originally going to choose my top 5, but that was far too difficult, so I settled on my top 10.  

Made With Pink’s Christmas Gift Guide – Top 10 Picks

1.  Russian Doll Measuring Cups – this set of 6 cute measuring cups look like traditional Russian matryoshkas dolls, and stack neatly inside each other.  They measure 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and 1 full cup.  Available from John Lewis for £11 and other retailers.

2.  Kenwood kMix Food Mixer – I’ve never been a fan of the classic Kenwood mixer – purely because I didn’t like the way it looked, but I’m loving the new kMix line which come in a range of funky colours.  The mixer shown is the Firecracker model, but my favourite is the Oyster Cove 1 which is made up of various shades of purples and greys.  The Firecracker model is available from John Lewis for £369.  All other models are available via the Kenwood Online Store for £399

3.  Pip Studio Tableware – Ever since spotting these gorgeous cups and saucers by Pip Studio last year, I’ve been a huge fan of the entire tableware range.  They’re great because they come in 3 main colours – blue, pink and beige and can all be mixed and matched with each other.  My husband bought me several pieces for my birthday in August, and I just love them and will continue to add to my collection.  The range includes  tea cups and saucers, tea pots, plates, mugs, bowls, charger plates, etc and look gorgeous when the various colours are mixed with each other.  Available from John Lewis for £4 – £50 and other retailers.

4.  Charbonnel et Walker Pink Marc de Champagne Truffles – Swarovski Crystal Edition – I just love these delicious pink champagne truffles.  How could I not?  They’re pink!  And they’re actually what inspired my award winning Pink Champagne Cupcakes I made around the time when I first started Made With Pink.  To be honest, the only thing different about these truffles that makes them any different from the original Charbonnel Pink Marc de Champagne truffles is that the box is studded with gorgeous pink Swarovski Crystals. I’m going to be honest and say that I could never justify the cost of these just because they have Swarovski Crystals on the box, but there are obviously people who can!  I think for now I’m going to have to admire them from afar, but if you’re looking for a gift for the person that has everything, then you may want to pick up a box.  Available from Harrods for £50

5.  KitchenAid Ice Blue Artisan Mixer – I know I’m featuring two mixers, but I just love the look of both of the ones I’ve chosen.  I don’t know if I could ever stray from my pink KitchenAid Artisan Mixer, but this Ice Blue Model (slightly resembling a giant package from Tiffany’s) just might tempt me.  If I could have both I would!  Available from John Lewis for £419 – currently comes with a free glass mixing bowl worth £61

6.  Pink Heart Cast Iron Casserole Dish – I spotted this adorable baby pink heart shaped cast iron casserole dish during a recent shop at Sainsburys.  I was immediately impressed with the finish an quality of the dish, as well as it’s reasonable price tag. I know for a fact that this will be waiting for me under our tree on Christmas morning :-)  If you’re not a fan of the heart shape, it’s also available in the traditional round shape in two different sizes.  Available from Sainsburys for £30

7.  Hovis Bread Tin – I don’t know why, but I just love this vintage inspired Hovis bread loaf tin.  I’d seen them previously in Selfridges, but never purchased one.  I love the old fashioned look of them, and think they would make a fantastic gift – especially with a loaf of my banana bread already baked inside! I’m not sure if Selfridges still carry these, but they’re available online in two different sizes from Not On The High Street for £16 – £28

8.  Peggy Porschen Apron – Ever since discovering Peggy’s cake decorating books I’ve been a huge fan of hers, and fell in love with her pretty pink and brown aprons after seeing them on display in her cake parlour.  At the time of posting this the adult apron is currently sold out, but the children’s size is still available.  The aprons are normally sold in store and online, but as the adult size is out of stock it’s best to call the parlour to check availability.  Available from the Peggy Porschen Parlour for £15 – £25

9.  Kuhn Rikon Colori Knives – I can safely say that these coloured knives are the most used thing in my kitchen.  I’ve lost track as to how many I actually have, but the baby pink ones (I have several) are my favourite.  I love these knives because the blades are made of high-quality carbon with a non-stick coating and plastic blade protecting case, which makes them great because I can toss them in my drawer or purse (yes, I’ve been known to carry one in my purse!) without them getting dull.  They come in a huge variety of colours and patterns including leopard and zebra prints, and even polka dot and cupcake patterns!  Available from various retailers for around £6

10.   ToDryFor Tea Towels – I stumbled across the ToDryFor website a few months ago, and can’t get enough of their quirky tea towels!  They have a huge range of designs, many inspired by London and other famous world cities, but the 2 pictured above are probably my favourites.  Available online from the ToDryFor website for £8.50 – £12.50

Hopefully my picks will help you choose the perfect gift for your loved one, or feel free to hint to them about something that caught your eye!  

* Please note that My Top 10 Picks were independently chosen by me, and without any compensation or influence from the manufacturers. 

Italian Gelato & Ice Cream Cupcakes!

So remember those ice cream cupcakes I made back in July? They were a huge hit, and probably the most popular post I’ve done so far.  Well last week I got an email from Carlo – he owns a chain of gelato stores here in London called Gelato Mio. He wanted to know if I’d come down to one of his stores to taste test (and make!) some of the new gelato cupcakes that he’s getting ready to launch in his shops.  Kelly from an American Cupcake in London was also there to help provide feedback on the gelato cupcakes which aren’t released yet, so we were pretty lucky to get a sneak peak! 

 Picture courtesy of canelvr
Just in case you don’t know the difference, ice cream starts with a milk base while Italian gelato uses a water base (less fat). I’m going to warn you now – be prepared for pictured OVERLOAD! 

First things first. Carlo (above) educated us on one of the most basic, yet important ingredients in ice cream making and cooking – vanilla.  I’m sure we’ve all seen a vanilla bean before.  You know – those long skinny black beans that come in plastic tubes?  Well, Carlo showed us the difference between the mediocre grocery store vanilla bean, and the premium quality vanilla beans he uses for his ice cream and gelato. 
 
See the vanilla bean on the left – that’s actually the higher quality vanilla bean!  Yeah, it might look a little bit moldy, but that isn’t actually mold.  The white fuzzy covering on the vanilla bean is called vanillian, and is an extremely pure and aromatic form of vanilla.  The beans that we get in the grocery store have already had the vanillian removed from them, so it can be used to make vanilla extract.  The two beans on the right, are just your run of the mill vanilla bean. 

Next we got to take a look at the raw ingredients that go into making the gelato and ice cream at Gelato Mio. On the menu for the evening was pistachio ice cream and strawberry gelato.  I love pistachios, but I’d only ever seen them in their original nut form.  When they’re used in ice cream they need to be blended into the mixture, but you can’t do that with raw nuts, so they use a pistachio puree instead.  The pistachio puree was amazing – almost like a pistachio peanut butter.  Oh how I’d love to eat it in a sandwich! 

We also got to make a delicious strawberry gelato using the some of the nicest, freshest strawberries I’d ever seen.  Not a blemish in site! 

They also make the most amazingly delicious Dark Chocolate Ice cream using THIS 5kg bar!
 

First up was the pistachio ice cream: 
 

Start out with a big bucket of the milk base 

Add in the pistachio puree 

Blend, blend, blend! 

Pour it into the magic ice cream machine 

9 minutes later, and out comes the most delicious pistachio ice cream! 

After all (um, I mean most) of the ice cream has made it into the metal container Carlo opened it up for us to see.  And clean.  And clean we did!  With spoons!  Cute little gelato spoons to be exact. 

Next up was the strawberry gelato: 

Start with a bucket of water and dump in the freshly washed strawberries.

Add in some sugar.

And blend. 
  

Yup, you know the drill.  Blend some more!  

Before it goes in the ice cream machine Carlo measures the sugar content of the  strawberry mixture using  a refractometer to make sure it’s just right. 

And finally out comes fresh strawberry gelato. 

Here they are – our two frozen concoctions.  Pistachio ice cream and strawberry gelato.  YUM! 

Nothing beats the taste of freshly made pistachio ice cream! 

Obviously ice cream needs to stay cold, so into the freezer it goes! And into the freezer we went too!  Yeah, that’s right.  Carlo made the mistake of letting us into the freezer as well. Unattended. With spoons!!!!  Lots of spoons!!!  

After Carlo dragged us out of the freezer we got our first look at his gelato cupcake prototypes.  He’d prepared a bunch of different flavour combinations for us to try. 
  

The first one we tried was a strawberry gelato cupcake that was constructed very similar to the way I made mine.  Chocolate shell, a layer of cake, ice cream middle and a chocolate frosting top.  The frozen cupcakes crusted over for a minute or two when they came out of the freezer.  Carlo and his pastry chef have worked hard to come up with a few different frosting recipes that don’t harden in the freezer.  This cupcake had a light pink marshmallow frosting on it. I’d never really been a fan of marshmallow frosting until I tried Gelato Mio’s version.  I couldn’t stop eating it! 

There’s the inside of the gelato cupcake.  Vanilla cake and strawberry gelato. I have to say, it was pretty good!
  

Next we got to have a try and making our own gelato cupcakes.  Carlo wanted to see how we (the cupcake experts) would make them, so he got everything all ready and laid out for us. We tried different amounts of cake inside, different cake flavours, different ice creams, and different frostings. 

Chocolate cups!  These ones were pre-made, but if you’d like to make your own you can follow my instructions here.  They’re really easy! 

Next we used circle cookie cutters to cut out the cake rounds, and then placed them in the cups.  I tried different amounts of cake in a few, and also combined both a layer of chocolate and vanilla cake in some.  

I also did a little experiment, and cut a hole in the middle of my cake (top left) and filled it with chocolate sauce to create a gooey surprise center!  Then it was time to choose our ice creams and gelato that would go into the cupcakes.  I choose peanut butter and dark chocolate (not pictured). 

The final step to making the ice cream cupcakes really is what defines it as a cupcake.  The frosting!  As I mentioned before, I really fell in love with the marshmallow frosting, and Kelly and I opted to use blue for our cupcakes. 
 
Pipe on a nice big swirl, and voilla!  Add on a few sprinkles, and it looks even better. 

Here’s a cross section of my chocolate filled cupcake. The chocolate just poured out.  Chocolate cake, chocolate sauce, rich dark chocolate ice cream, and marshmallow frosting.  I love it!  I think this was probably my favourite of the evening. 

Be careful though!  You can’t leave these cupcakes at room temperature for long, or they’ll start to melt! 

All in all, I had a really fun night with Carlo and his team at Gelato Mio. The whole gelato workshop was very educational, and I was really impressed with the quality of ingredients and the care that went into making each batch of ice cream and gelato.  As I mentioned before, these ice cream cupcakes aren’t available in the Gelato Mio stores just yet as Carlo’s still got a bit of tweaking and taste testing to do.  He’s hoping to launch them in the next month or two, so I can’t wait to see what the final product will look (and taste!) like.  I’ll definitely be heading down to one of his 4 locations to try one. 

If you’re interested in attending one of Carlo’s gelato workshops, I’m pretty sure that he runs similar ones several times a month, so if you’re interested in attending on yourself you can contact Carlo here. 

Oh, and one of the best things about the night – I didn’t have to clean up!!!