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Waitrose Christmas Dessert Reviews

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to review several Christmas desserts from Waitrose this year, two of which were created by UK celebrity chef Heston Blementhal.  For those of you living outside the UK, or are who are just not unfamiliar with Heston, he’s basically a real life Willy Wonka.  His creations are like little science experiments – many of which I find a little too out there, but his creations for Waitrose are suited more to the general public. 

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If you live in the UK, you may remember the infamous Christmas pudding he created last year exclusively for Waitrose.  It had an entire candied orange hidden inside, which infused the pudding with a delicious citrus flavour.  When you cut into the pudding you also got a cross section of candied orange as well.  Heston’s Candied Orange Christmas Pudding sold out within days, and immediately began springing up on eBay for hundreds of pounds.  The same has happened this year, although the average price seems to be between £15 – £30.

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This year Heston has created several new Christmas desserts including a Chocolate Popping Candy Tart, a Chocolate and Cherry Blackforest Buche, and Puff Pastry Mince Pies With Pine Sugar Dusting.  

I was fortunate enough to try out Heston’s Popping Candy Tart and his Pine Scented Mince Pies, as well as a Christmas Pudding Cheesecake by Waitrose’s own label.  


First up I tried the Waitrose Christmas Pudding Cheesecake.  I had wanted to try it ever since hearing about it at the Waitrose Christmas product launch way back in the summer.  Although it wasn’t available to sample on the day, I thought the concept was great.  The cheesecake comes in a neat dome shape, just like a real Christmas pudding.  It had a delicious graham cracker / digestive base, and the actual cheesecake bit was so light and fluffy in texture.  It was loosely studded with candied orange peel, raisins and pieces of Christmas pudding, but the flavour was not too strong or overwhelming, although the chocolate topping did taste a bit boozey.  My husband and I both really liked the cheesecake, partially because the Christmas pudding flavour was quite mild, making it a perfect alternative if you or your guests aren’t that fond of the traditional Christmas pudding.  The Waitrose Christmas Pudding Cheesecake sells for £6.99 and serves approximately 6 people.


Next I tried the popping candy tart which is described as “a tart that will literally dance on your tongue. First you will be seduced by the luxurious velvety dark chocolate that has been infused with an exotic passion fruit puree, a direct contrast to the crunchy hazelnut base.  As your mouth begins to water the real surprise element begins as the popping candy begins to crackle and tingle on your tongue.”


The description above is fairly accurate.  The chocolate is so rich and velvety smooth, with just a hint of passion fruit, making you want to savour every last bit in your mouth.  And that’s when the popping candy hits you! There’s just enough snap, crackle and pop to know it’s there, but not so much that it’s like you dumped an entire packet of the stuff into your mouth (like we all did when we were kids!).  I would definitely recommend Heston’s popping candy tart as a special Christmas treat.  I also think it would make an even better dessert option for New Years Eve, although I’m not sure if it will still be available in stores then, but it’s worth checking.  Personally, I think the only drawback to the popping candy tart would be the price.  Maybe it’s just me, but £16.99 for a 10 serving tart seems a little steep for a prepared supermarket dessert.  I guess it just depends on how much you like your friends and family :-) 


Lastly I tried Heston’s pine scented mince pies, which he describes as “delicious eaten warm from the oven, and then sprinkled with pine sugar for a Christmas tree aroma.”  Unlike a conventional mince pie, Heston’s version is incased in puff pastry rather than a normal tart shell.  The mince pies come with a generous sized packet of pine scented icing sugar that really does smell exactly like pine, so much so, that I initially found it a little off putting because it smelled like a household cleaner.  After dipping my finger into it and giving it a taste, I decided that I actually quite liked the pine sugar.  It had a nice subtle pine flavour, with a minty aftertaste.  I was really excited to give these mince pies a try, but in all honesty I found them a bit disappointing.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been a huge puff pasty fan, but I found the pastry a bit bland – I think the pies would have been better in a traditional tart shell. There was too much puff pastry, and not enough filling inside, but I really did like the pine sugar. I think next year Heston could have a real winner if he kept the novelty of the pine sugar, but used a regular tart shell.  At £3.29 for 6, they’re definitely more expensive than the average mince pies, but they won’t break the bank either if you’re looking to try a little something different.



At first I sprinkled the pine sugar on quite sparingly, but don’t be afraid of it.  Next time I’d cover the tops in the sugar!

So what are YOU having for Christmas dessert?

Contact

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you enjoy reading about my baking adventures.  If you have a question or comment, please feel free to email me at  madewithpink(at)gmail(dot)com or use the form below.  If you are a company or PR agency please see my disclosure policy below.

 

PR and Corporate Disclosure Policy:  If you are interested in having your product or service reviewed on Made With Pink, please contact me with full details at madewithpink (at) gmail (dot) com.  Products chosen to appear in written review posts will be identified as a “sponsored post”, or “product for review” and  the supplier thanked.  Reviews are honest and unbiased – good or bad.

Mini Chocolate Malt Cupcakes

Christmas Tried and Tested: Mini Cupcake Maker Review


It’s official, Christmas is only a month away, and I’m pleased to say I’ve got almost all of my Christmas shopping done – or at least planned.  I’m on fire this year!  I used to love Christmas shopping. I still do, but it seems like the shopping malls are so much more chaotic over here in the UK (especially the parking lots!), so I’ve resorted to doing most of my shopping online this year.  There’s loads of great online shops in the UK that sell some really unique things – something I don’t really remember having when I lived in Canada (yes we had online store, just not very good ones – at the time). So if you’re like me and don’t feel like braving the masses this year, then you’re in luck because I’ve got some great reviews coming your way that should hopefully help ease the shopping process for you!


First up is something I would have killed for when I was younger, and even though I’m a bit older now I still think it’s pretty cool.  This awesome mini pink cupcake maker was sent to me by the fabulous folks over at Find Me A Gift.  It bakes 7 mini cupcakes in a matter of minutes. No need to heat up the oven!  


I loved the fact that I could use our oven to cook dinner, and at the same time bake dessert using this mini cupcake maker on our countertop.  I ended up making some chocolate malt cupcakes that have been on my “to bake list” for at least two years now. They baked up great in this little machine – nice and moist with perfectly domed tops (which I’m sure also has a lot to do with the recipe).  I think my only point of criticism is that the cupcakes were small – I prefer regular sized cupcakes unless I’m at a party or somewhere where there’ll be multiple desserts.  But I can totally see this cupcake maker becoming the centre of attention at a girls slumber party where everyone could get a chance to bake and decorate a few cupcakes.


Chocolate Malt Cupcakes
Recipe from That Winsome Girl

Cupcake Ingredients:

2 1/4 Cups Flour 
3/4 Cup Cocoa Powder 
1/2 Cup Castor Sugar 
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda 
1/2 tsp salt 
1 Cup Whole Milk 
1 1/2 Cups Malted Milk Powder 
1 Cup Oil 
3 Eggs, room temperature 
1 Cup Sour Cream, room temperature 
1 tspVanilla Extract

Buttercream Ingredients:

1 Cup Butter,room temperature 
1 Cup Vegetable Shortening (Crisco or Trex), room temperature 
1/2 Cup Malted Milk Powder 
4 Tbsp Cocoa Powder 
5 Cups Icing Sugar, sifted

Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins (or mini cupcake maker) with paper liners. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, brown and white sugars, baking soda and salt. Set aside.  


2.  In another bowl, whisk the milk and malted milk powder together until the powder is dissolved.   With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the flour mixture, milk mixture and oil until combined.

3.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated.  Add in sour cream and vanilla, and beat just until combined.

4.  Divide batter evenly among the lined cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in centres comes out clean. Cool before icing.

5.  While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the frosting. In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter and shorting together for several minutes until very light and fluffy. Sprinkle in the malted milk powder and cocoa powder. Whip for 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar a few spoonfuls at a time, letting it incorporate until the frosting becomes thick and stiff before piping onto your cooled cupcakes.    


Overall I was really impressed with the this little gadget.  I can totally see it on the top of many girls Christmas lists this year, especially those aged about 8 – 14, but really anyone can use it.  And at only £16.99 it’s not going to break the bank. As for the recipe, while I thought it was good it wasn’t my favourite.  The flavours were quite subtle, and I prefer a richer more chocolately flavour.  My Malteser (aka Whoppers) loving friends thought they were great though.     

Thanks to Find Me A Gift for providing me with the mini cupcake maker for review. 


The Cake and Bake Show – What I Really Thought

This past weekend finally saw the highly anticipated Cake and Bake Show come to London. The Cake and Bake Show was labeled as “the first live event dedicated to the world of cakes, breads and the art of baking.”

The show had a star studded line up of demonstrators and guest speakers set to appear including British baking royalty Marry Berry, Paul Hollywood, Mitch Turner, Eric Lanlard, Peggy Porschen and more.

I hadn’t actually planned on attending The Cake and Bake Show as I’d already attended two cake and sugarcraft shows (Squires & Cake International) earlier in the year, and acquired enough new equipment, lustre dusts and colourings to last me at least a year.  


The two day Cake and Bake Show had been sold out for weeks.  As I hadn’t intended on going I didn’t arrange for a press ticket, but then didn’t want to appear cheeky by requesting one at the last minute.  So when I got an email two weeks before the event stating that additional tickets for the Sunday show had been released, I bought one and decided that attending another cake show couldn’t hurt.  In addition to my entry ticket I also bought a “classroom” ticket to the Hand Painted Cakes session.  I’d missed out on some of the free classes at the Cake International show that allowed you to decorate cupcakes, and learn new cookie decorating techniques amongst others.  I thought that by booking a space in the classroom I would be guaranteed a seat and also be supplied with some materials to practice on during the class.  I was wrong, but I’ll come back to that part later.

First things first. I arrived at Earls Court around 10:30am, and was cheerfully ushered inside by a venue staff member.  I was really excited to see there weren’t any long lines to get in, and assumed I would be able to walk straight into the show.  Nope. Upon walking down a small flight of stairs and turning the corner my heart sank when I saw the excessively long line to enter the show.  In fact I couldn’t see then beginning of the line and I couldn’t see the end either.  I ended up waiting in line in the dimly lit basement corridors of Earls Court for nearly half an hour before I got into the show.

The crowd to see Marry Berry.  Don’t worry – you’re not the only one who can’t spot her!

When I did finally get in, I wasn’t prepared for just how busy the show would be.  It was packed.  Marry Berry was on stage doing a demonstration, but the crowds were so thick I couldn’t even see the stage.  I had no idea where to go or what to see, so I tried to find a printed map of the show I could take with me, only to discover that I would have to pay £3 for a show guide and map.  I didn’t buy it incase I needed the cash later in the day.   I walked past the stage to explore the  and ventured into the classroom area, which was quite bare and quiet compared to the main part of the show.   It was here that discovered the class I booked, wasn’t in fact an interactive class, but just a seat I’d secured in a demonstration area.  I was beyond disappointed, and genuinely felt that I’d been “had”.  Especially when I noticed non-paying onlookers watching the exact same demonstrations while standing just outside the classroom paid “VIP” area. 

To avoid paying £3 for a show guide I had to take a photo of the map on my phone. Notice the confusing floor layout

I made my way back to the main room to explore what was on show, but found the layout to be extremely confusing.  I ended up wasting a lot of time wandering around looking for specific booths, and even ended up needing directions via twitter on where the book store and signing area was.  In the end I ended up taking pictures of the classroom schedules and show layout on my iphone from one of the 3 large display boards that were scattered around the show so I’d have something to refer to because I didn’t fork over the £3 for the show guide.  

Marry Berry (a tad blurry) seconds before she was escorted away by security


Apologies for the horrific quality and lack of photos from the show, but it was so crowded I didn’t take many.

One of the “classroom” areas – £8 to sit down inside the “VIP” area, Free to stand and watch outside

I really can’t comment on the rest of the show because it was so ridiculously crowded and poorly laid out that I couldn’t muster up the energy to push my way through the crowds. In the end I spent the majority of my time waiting for and watching a couple of the smaller demonstrations, which also allowed me to sit down.  I did explore the retail stalls nearer to the end of the show once the crowds had thinned out.  The retails stalls were a lot of the same ones I’d seen at Cake International earlier in the year, but with a much smaller selection of products and mainly geared to cupcakes, and a bit of sugarcraft.  Aside from a few specialty flour sellers, I saw very little in the way of baking anything other than cupcakes.  I will say that I was very impressed with the colour range of the Squires Kitchen cupcake cases though.

I sat in on Peggy’s hand moulded rose demonstrations which was excellent

Peggy demonstrating how to make her signature “vintage bloom” sugar flowers


Negatives aside, I accomplished what I wanted to get out of the show.  I managed to purchase Edd Kimber’s new book, and have him sign it.  I even got to see Marry Berry up close before she was whisked away by her team of security (15 minutes prior to the scheduled end of her book signing I might add).  I got to sit in on two excellent flower demonstrations by Peggy Porschen and her team – both free, and in a more private setting with better lighting than the rest of the paid classrooms.  And I really did enjoy the hand painted cakes class instructed by Natasha Collins of Nevie-Pie Cakes.  I came away with a clear understanding of what materials and techniques are involved in order to create gorgeous hand painted cakes and cookies, but I only wish we would have had a chance to put some of those techniques to use on a fondant covered cookie.


Natasha’s hand painted cakes demo – she made it look sooo easy!

The Goods: 

– If you’re willing to brave the crowds, you had the chance to get up close and personal with your favourite celebrity bakers.
– There looked like there was a lot to keep kids occupied (cupcake decorating, demo watching, etc)
– If you were looking for funky cupcake cases there were TONS available
– There were some excellent free demonstrations, although seating was very limited
– The retail stalls allowed you to see and purchase physical products rather than ordering them online. 
– The Book People were selling a great range of recipe books at online prices – I was thrilled that I was able to purchase Edd’s book for £10 rather than the £19 cover price

The Bads:

– Tired venue and very confusing layout. It was also very poorly lit.
– Too much focus on cupcakes
– The lines for the bathrooms were crazy long.  I had my first drink of the day at 3pm in order to avoid having to go to the bathroom
– Ticketed demonstrations were easily watched by onlookers for free & we weren’t given the opportunity to practice what we learnt.
– The crowds.  I’d recommend the organisers look to extend future shows to 3 days
– There was a lack of actual cake & snacks that were available to purchase and eat on the spot.  The venue cafe actually ran out of sandwiches, so all the was available to eat were crisps and brownies that weren’t even supplied by any of the independent businesses involved with the show.  I ended up spending £4.10 on a small glass bottle of pepsi and a bag of crisps.

Top Tips:

– Bring cash – a lot of the independent stalls only accept cash
– If your making larger purchases, ask the stalls to keep them behind the counter for you (with your name firmly secured on them to ensure they’re not re-sold!) until you’re ready to leave
– Wear comfortable shoes and light clothing
– Bring your own water bottle, and a light snack in your handbag
– Arrive early (and I mean early!) to ensure you bag a good seat for any of the free demonstrations
– Go with a plan of what you want to see, and when & where they’ll be appearing in order to avoid wandering around aimlessly

I really hope the organisers of the Cake and Bake Show will take all of the reviews that are being discussed and blogged about at the moment into consideration in preparation of the next Cake and Bake Show this April Manchester.

So what about you guys?  Did you go to the Cake and Bake Show?  What did you think?

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!