09 January, 2014

Monte Carlos

When I purchased the sweet little book, The Afternoon Tea Collection, from the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble, I had no idea the delights that awaited me.

So far I have made a few of the recipes, and this one is another hit. Buttery, coconut sugar cookies are sandwiched with butter cream and a dollop of jam ~ they are irresistible. These cookies are naughty, they call to you from the tin in the other room. Thank goodness they are so tiny, I don't feel too horrible sneaking one. The recipe was easily halved, as I didn't think we could possibly eat 50 within a few days time before we either tired of them or they were no longer so great. I'm sure these would make a welcome treat to a holiday cookie tray or even a bake sale. Little bites of heaven, I say.

The recipe is simple, although filling the cookies was a bit fiddly. I came up with a technique in which I spread a generous layer of buttercream on one cookie, then took my offset spatula and scooped a tiny bit out of the middle, dollopped the jam in that little hole and popped another cookie on top. This seemed to prevent loads of oozing jam. There was still some ooze, but not nearly as much and honestly, who cares? Oozing jam makes them that much more appealing. Case in point, my oozy jam photo, looks brilliant, doesn't it? *Le sigh* I'm off to that cute little tin in the kitchen, full of delightful little gems...

Monte Carlos
from The Afternoon Tea Collection

185g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon coconut extract
110g brown sugar
1 egg
185g self rising flour
110g plain flour
40g desiccated coconut (shredded, unsweetened coconut)

30 jam
120g icing sugar
60g unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
2 teaspoon cream

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line cookie trays with parchment.

Beat butter, sugar, extracts and coconut, along with a generous pinch of salt until light and fluffy. Add egg, beat until incorporated. Add flours and beat until just comes together. Roll teaspoons of dough into balls and place on cookie trays 1 inch apart. Flatten eat cookie with the tines of a fork. Bake for 12 minutes until lightly golden. Cool completely on cooling racks. Beat icing sugar, butter, extracts and cream until a thick butter cream comes together. Spread a generous amount onto the flat, bottom of one cookie, using an offset spatula, gently scoop a tiny amount of cream from the middle to make an indentation for the jam, dollop a drop of jam (about 1/4 teaspoon) into the hole, sandwich another cookie on top and gently press together. These cookies should be tiny, a two little bite wonder. Keep that in mind when shaping the cookies ~ they should be about the size of a nickel (if it were a spherical shape).

25 December, 2013

Happy Christmas Friends

Wishing you all a beautiful Christmas and a New Year filled with love and joy! 

09 December, 2013

The Tardis Will Arrive Shortly & I'll Be Ready

My wonderful bookclub had their British themed Christmas party this weekend and I made Jammy Dodgers in honor of The Dr. 

I used Pam Corbin's wonderful recipe from The River Cottage Cakes Handbook. They turned out beautifully, were simple to make, and were utterly delicious. I would make them again in a heartbeat!

15 November, 2013

Peyton & Byrne's Coconut Fairy Cakes

Another stunner from Peyton and Byrne's British Baking book. Oh my giddy god's pajamas are these cupcakes {fairy cakes} luscious. The heady scent of coconut permeated the house and it was a truly delightful Friday morning. I'll make these again, there's no doubt about that. I know a few coconut lovers who would very much appreciate one of these scrumptious beauties.

The swiss meringue buttercream is ever so slightly time consuming, but in the end you have this ethereal, fluffy white cloud, frosting that is one in a million. The cakes are moist and flavorful. I changed a few things, I didn't do the raspberries in the bottom of each pastry case as called for. These are, after all, really entitled 'Coconut and Raspberry Fairy Cakes'. It is Autumn here and raspberries aren't in season, so I skipped them. I added the zest of one lemon and 1 teaspoon of coconut extract to the batter. A 1/2 teaspoon of coconut extract was also added to the frosting. Both of these additions helped to create a truly coconutty cake. The vanilla, coconut, and lemon all seem to fall in love and create this lovely scented, flavorful cake. Combine that with the frosting and prepare to be wowed.

With each recipe I make from this book I fall more and more in love. So far, everything has been a smashing success, which is so reassuring when you give over good ingredients to someone else's recipe. I wonder which recipe will be next? Coffee and walnut cake? Banoffee Pie? We shall see...

07 October, 2013

Nerdy Doughnut Love - Cooking with Miss Lils

I was recently on the ATK feed and saw the infographic for 'A Nerd's Guide to Making Doughnuts' and thought, 'Yup, I'm on that!' And I was. And it was wonderful.

It was a rainy Friday last week, so after school Princess and I set to work making proper, yeasted, fried doughnuts. They. Were. Amazing. Have you ever had a warm doughnut all covered in crunchy cinnamon sugar? Oh my goodness, you must, I tell you. Don't waste another minute! Get into the kitchen!

The dough was simple, as easy, breezy as whipping together a pizza dough. We put it in a really warm place and it was ready to go in no time. Princess loved rolling them out. Sadly I didn't get any photos of that. I was probably having too much fun to think of it. I did the frying bit, but she was close to hand to check it out from atop a chair several feet away. The whole experience was fun.

I've been so busy with university studies that I'm not as engaged with Princess as I'd like to be. I decided doing a regular cooking afternoon with her is a good way to spend time together and hopefully it'll inspire me to post on a more regular basis. Having times like this at the end of a hectic week help us to bond and be close amidst the chaos of busy lives. Moral of the story, get into the kitchen and cook with your kids ~ they'll love it and it's a great opportunity to discuss science, math, history and just be together - there are all sorts of  great personal and educational opportunities in the kitchen. Plus, you get to devour what you create! Yum!

Click HERE for the infographic and recipe.

01 October, 2013

Peyton & Byrne's British Brownies

I'm really in truly off and running with Peyton and Byrne's Gorgeous British Baking cookbook. I decided to give the brownies a go and, oh my goodness, they may very well be my new favorite brownie recipe. Simple yet so perfect. I added chocolate chips and toffee bits, but like any basic brownie recipe you can tailor it to your liking.

The brownies are magnificent. There is a punch of chocolate flavor and they are oh so rich and fudgy, yet somehow they have an almost ethereal texture to them. I'm all about these brownies. If you are desperate for a chocolate fix, these brownies are for you. Honestly, go and buy this cookbook.

24 September, 2013

Welcome Autumn ~ Toffee Apples

Several months back, I treated myself to Peyton and Byrne's British Baking cook book. I've been drooling over the photos for months but haven't been doing much baking. *Tisk Tisk* A few weeks ago we went apple picking up in Stowe and we sure have a lot of apples. Pies have been baked, endless apples have been eaten on the ride to here and there and everywhere... and still we've got a lot of apples. 

I needed a quick breather from studying today and whipping up some toffee apples seemed like just the trick to calming my nerves. Along with a hot cuppa, I was off and running. These were easy; the toffee cooks up fairly quickly, less than 10 minutes, a couple of minutes of cooling and you're rolling apples in toffee. 

The toffee is lush, not really like the rich caramel you usually get at fairs and local farms. It was more like the flavor of Werthers candies, a softer, lighter, butterscotchy flavor. I Love, LOVE them. I may have eaten two and a half tonight. So naughty, but worth it.

One recipe down, many more to go. This is a gorgeous book and this recipe was a cinch and a sure bet. This book wows, I would definitely recommend buying it or taking it out from your local library if they've got a copy, even if it's just for reading pleasure. 

23 September, 2013

Fancy That - A Review

Let me start by saying, I wasn't planning to write a review for the blog. I had a test this morning, and I still have a project and paper to write for Wednesday, so blogging seemed kind of, well, silly. But here I am. It was that good. For serious.

Sunday I had the good fortune of going for tea at Fancy That in Walpole and it was exceptionally lovely. Being such a crazy detail oriented person, I found myself noticing all the little touches in every nook and cranny of the experience and I have to admit, I was highly impressed. From the actual decor, to the table settings, to the food. And the tea, oh my! What a selection!

We were brought our tea, hot, steeped and ready to be poured, by our very friendly server. The food was presented beautifully and it was delicious. From the top tier there was a cinnamon and raisin scone, it was flavorful and yummy with clotted cream and jam, as well as a slice of lemon cake. The lemon cake was one of my favorite things on the tray, it was moist and the flavor was strong without being abrasive, as citrus can sometimes be. The middle tier was our yummy finger sandwiches. Cucumber, ham and cheese, and chicken salad. The cucumber was very good; while the chicken salad was good it wasn't memorable. It was lacking something, fresh herbs perhaps, something to set it apart from just an ordinary chicken salad with cranberries. The ham was the star in my opinion. There was a great balance of flavors from the salty ham, zingy mustard, and the pumpernickel and rye swirl bread put it over the top for me. On to that bottom tier, everyone's favorite, dessert! Well, this everyone's favorite, that's for sure. It had an adorable little pink vanilla cupcake. I'm a picky cake girl. I expect perfection from cakes and this was spot on. The cake was moist, had a light crumb and great flavor. The frosting melted in your mouth and tasted of real vanilla. There was a macaron, which I always love. This one was orange, which I kind of wasn't exactly excited about. I'm not the biggest fan of orange as a stand out flavor. As a subtle undertone, it's fine, but star of the show, no thanks. I was pleasantly surprised, the orange flavor was subtle and the flavor of the almonds seemed to be more of what hit me. I loved it. The best dessert, in my opinion, was the raspberry mousse cup. Holy mother goose, was it delicious. I could have eaten 100 of these. Delicious on every front.

The gift shop, which is the room you enter in to when you arrive, it top notch. The china collection available is amazing, I kept thinking I could easily drop $100 in here on tea cups. But, I was a good girl and miraculously didn't. I was elated to finally, after years of searching antique shops all over New England, able to find a beautiful daffodil tea cup and promptly snatched it up.

I'm definitely eager to go back. The food and service was excellent and the owner and her husband were kind, gracious hosts. Places like this are hard to find in a world driven by a rushing, bustling undercurrent of consume, and consume fast. Fancy That is like a sanctuary, where a calming, hot cuppa and some refreshments are waiting to see you through. It was a real treat!

14 February, 2013

Valentine's Day Easy Chocolate Mousse

I love me some Valentine's Day. Every year I make something special and this year, as I am recovering from a cold and the blizzard of 2013, I decided on an easy recipe. Nigella Lawson's Instant Chocolate Mousse.

I don't know that I'd call it instant, but it's quick and easy. It's also good if you have children, are pregnant or just cannot get fresh enough eggs to feel comfortable consuming raw eggs, which is what a traditional chocolate mousse contains.

This chocolate mousse relies on marshmallows to get that ethereal, airy texture. Because marshmallows are so sweet it's really important to us a good quality, DARK chocolate here. I even go so far as to add a bit more than the recipe suggests, probably an extra two or three ounces. I want my chocolate mousse to be really chocolatey. It's as simple and melting all the ingredients together for five or ten minutes, allowing the mixture to cool and then folding it in to some whipped cream. Easy peasy, impressive and utterly scummy.

I've made this recipe quite a few times and it is my daughter's favorite so I thought it would be nice to make it for a decadent dessert on Valentine's Day. I may have had a few spoonfuls for my breakfast, or rather as an appetizer to my breakfast. Wink wink.

I definitely ate that blob of chocolate mousse off the counter.

This recipe is readily available on Nigella's website and in her book, Express.

02 January, 2013

Cinnamon Babka

There's something that happens to me after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, something that has me feeling hungry for hearty, healthy things. There's also a part of me that is hungry for homemade breads. During these cold New England winter months, the smell of bread baking and the warmth that it brings to the home help me to cope much better with the chill in the air. I have a few old reliables, but I love to try new bread recipes. Sometimes things can get hairy, sometimes things turn out mind blowing. Fortunately, this was one of the latter experiences.

I recently picked up a few special issues of Cook's Illustrated, one of which is the Best Recipes and Reviews 2013. The recipe for Cinnamon Babka had my mouth watering and I've been itching to try it.

The recipe was fairly easy and straightforward, but I did have to add a significant amount of additional flour as the dough was far too wet and sticky. I would say somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 cup of additional flour finally got the dough to come together. The final dough is like an ultra moist and truly delicious brioche. It's got the golden hue of brioche and that luxurious, almost cakey texture. There is a sweetness to this bread, perhaps a from the vanilla in the dough.

The finished bread is so amazing - it is a moist, slightly sweet brioche with an ooey, gooey cinnamon swirl. Totally worth the effort for an indulgent take on cinnamon swirl bread.

29 December, 2012

Christmas Candy Making

What is more fun than candy making? Nothing, I tell you. Nothing at all!

This year I wanted to give some homemade gifts from the kitchen and I set to work a week before Christmas making some of my favorite candies to give to my loved ones.

The first thing I made was Pam Corbin's Candied Orange Peel. This is one of those epiphany moments. Between the intoxicating smell that wafts through your home to the sweet and chewy texture of the finished candy, it is addicting. An added bonus, the left over syrup can be jarred and saved for champagne cocktails. Dipped in dark chocolate, these are a a homemade treat that will always impress.

The second chocolate I set out to make is the one chocolate that I always get when I visit a chocolate/candy shop, the coconut cluster, also known as the coconut haystack. I use unsweetened coconut and I toast it and mix it with some really high quality chocolate, milk chocolate is always a favorite with coconut. So easy and so super delicious.

The third and fourth chocolates I made were because of a bit of a mishap in the kitchen with an attempt at salted caramels. My candy thermometer is broken and the caramels didn't cook to the proper temperature and thus never fully set. I tried to wing it, but it was didn't work out in the end. I was left with a fair amount of gorgeous tasting caramel that I didn't have the heart to throw away. I decided to make these marvelous little dark chocolate salted caramel filled cups with half the caramel. With the other half I made milk chocolate salted peanut turtles. Those turned out brilliantly.

Although I hit that one bump in the road with the caramel, it turned out alright in the end. A labor of love created dozens of chocolates I was proud to give away to the ones I love. A fun new adventure into something different.

26 December, 2012

Happy Christmas!!

Hoping everyone has thoroughly enjoyed their Christmas. It was a wonderful first Christmas season for our family in our new home. Present giving, and receiving is always so fun. My husband got me some real goodies this year. My favorite could very well be my excessively greedy stash of chocolates.

He also got me these great storage bins for the kitchen. I've been dreaming of getting back into the habit of baking bread, these just might be the inspiration that I've needed. Well, these and the gorgeous brioche rolls I made for Christmas dinner. Delectable. I seem to have lost count with how many I have consumed.

Pleasant wishes to everyone during this special time of year.

Nuvole di Miele

It's Christmastime and that means the season of cookies, right? I decided to try a recipe in Gina DePalma's wonderful book, Dolce Italiano. The cookie I chose to add to the dessert table on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, is her Nuvole di Miele, or Honey Clouds. The author describes these cookies as, "soft, pillowy,". They are definitely like little cakes, subtly infused with the sweetness of ground almonds, honey and orange.

Where the cookies are subtle in their flavor, the glaze makes them truly pop. The sweetness if all the ingredients shines with the honey and orange icing and then boom, there is the crunch of the flaked, toasted almonds. It's like the heavenly angels appeared when these cookies were made. Ok, maybe that's a bit much, but it is Christmas after all.

The cookies are really best fresh, but they are still quite excellent on the second day and perfectly fine with a cuppa on the third. I would imagine they'll fair quite well on day four, when they are dunked in said cuppa. I might be enthusiastic to add a dash of cinnamon to the batter next time around, with the subtle honey and orange flavors, I think it'd be a great match.

30 October, 2012

Spelt Bread Dough

After a good solid six months in the new house, I'm really starting to feel settled. It took months to accomplish everything we wanted to. I made curtains or tailored curtains for all the windows, which seemed like an endless task. Pictures have been hung, most things have a home at this point. Spring blooming bulbs have been planted in the yard. It feels like home. We'll always be making improvements as life progresses,  but I feel truly settled. I've been gradually getting back into the swing of baking bread. I've got a smaller workspace than I did in our apartment, but I'm learning to make it work. Of course, the book I always find myself turning to when I need to reacquaint myself with flour and yeast is Daniel Stevens Bread Handbook. So here we are again, baking delicious, healthy breads for the family. My new love is spelt ~ delicious, mouthwatering spelt.

I'm truly head over heels for spelt flour at the moment. A sale on flour at one of my local markets had my carry basket feeling wicked heavy. I picked up some organic spelt flour, a gorgeous whole wheat flour, chestnut flour, and my favorite corn meal. It was a windfall, all of it for just under $13.

To my trusty bread handbook I go for the recipe I use as a base, adding a few things, like butter and honey. I've also found that I need a little additional liquid, about 50ml more than the recipe calls for. Combining two flours to creates a flavorful dough that doesn't have that characteristically over dense texture that a purely spelt dough can. I'm really enamored with the flavor of the spelt flour. In Daniel's book he says that spelt benefits from some extra kneading, so I kneaded an additional five minutes. This is one gorgeous dough. It's a beautiful color and it's so lush when you've finished kneading. It's my new favorite dough. I'm even more in love with it than an oatmeal and rye blend, which... oh my, is all I can say for that one. Come to think of it, spelt and rye might be a lovely combination that I think is worth trying in the future - that would make a tops loaf for a cold ham sandwich with a sharp mustard, some cheddar and even some chutney. Yum!

Spelt Dough

250g strong bread flour,  King Arthur's white whole wheat flour works nicely here too
250g spelt flour
5g instant yeast
10g fine salt
350ml milk and water, warm
1 tablepoon butter, softened
2 tabelspoons honey

Combine the ingredients and knead the dough until it is soft and elastic - this will take a good solid 10-15 minutes by hand. More quickly with the mixer. Form the dough into a ball, cover with cling and allow it to rise until doubled in size. Punch it down, form it into a loaf, allow it to rise and bake at 400F for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for a further 40-60 minutes. This could also be made into delicious little rolls to go with soup or a roast dinner.

10 October, 2012

Chocolate Whopper Cake

I make no secret of the love I feel for Nigella Lawson. I have quite a few of her cookbooks and I favor her down to earth, no nonsense approach to cooking. Reading her cookbooks is like reading a novel, her writing is beautiful and her recipes are simple and delicious. They are the recipes your mother would make, they are the recipes that are bound to become family favorites and many have become favorites of our family. I realize not everyone is as enamored with Nigella as me. I've read countless negative reviews of her recipes and cookbooks and some very unsavory personal attacks. No bother, though. I will always love her and I treasure the books I have that she has written and the recipes that have made their way into my regular cooking schedule.

Nigella's Chocolate Malteser Cake makes me think of my Mom and sure enough when I mentioned it to her, her eyes lit up. It's just the kind of cake she would like. We're malt lovers in our family. My Papa, my mother's father, has always favored a good old fashioned malted shake or frappe and malted milk balls are one of my mother's favorite candy treats. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I am also a huge malt fan. I've been known to heat up some milt with a little sugar and a few hefty scoops of malt powder to calm my nerves. And, a chocolate malted shake is my ultimate comfort. There is always a can of malt powder in our pantry. 

It's no wonder I was eager to give this cake a go. It was simple to make and we all enjoyed it very much. My only criticism is that I wish the cake had a more chocolaty flavor. The frosting is to die for though. Oh my! The recipe can be found in Nigella's Feast Cookbook, in the Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame chapter. There's some real winners in this chapter and some of my all time favorite cake recipes, including my daughter's favorite cake that I have made for a number of her birthdays, Nigella's Honey Chocolate Cake.

Chocolate Malteser Cake

For the cake
150g soft dark brown sugar 
100g caster sugar
3 large eggs
175ml milk
15g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Horlicks/malted milk powder
175g plain flour
25g cocoa, sieved
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the icing and decoration
250g icing sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa
45g Horlicks
125g soft unsalted butter
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 oucnes packets Maltesers

Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter and line two 20cm/8inch cake tins with baking parchment.

Whisk together the sugars and eggs until light and frothy. Heat the milk, butter and Horlicks powder in a small saucepan until the butter has melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Beat the milk mixture into the eggs a little at a time. Fold in the dry ingredients thoroughly. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, by which time the cakes should have risen and will spring back when pressed gently. Let them cool on a rack for about 5-10 minutes and then turn them out of their tins.

Once the cakes are cold, you can get on with the icing. I use a processor just because it makes life easier: you don't need to sieve the icing sugar. So: put the icing sugar, cocoa and Horlicks in the processor and blitz to remove all lumps. Add the butter and process again. Stop, scrape down, and start again, pouring the boiling water down the funnel with the motor running until you have a smooth buttercream.

Sandwich the cold sponges with half of the buttercream, and then ice the top with what is left, creating a swirly pattern rather than a smooth surface. Stud the outside edge, about 1cm in, with a ring of Maltesers or use them to decorate the top in which-ever way pleases you.

31 August, 2012

The Joy of Tiffin

Tiffin got a lot of attention around the time of the Royal Wedding. It was speculated that William wanted tiffin included in the dessert choices at the wedding as it was his favorite treat as a child. At least, that's the word on the street. I can completely understand why Prince Handsome loves tiffin - it is full on amazing.

Tiffin is such an easy treat to make. It's sometimes called a chocolate fridge cake and the variations are endless. My favorite is a combination of coconut, butter biscuits, dried cranberries and salted peanuts. The sky is truly the limit with tiffin, though. You can add cut up bits of candy bar, any variety of dried fruits that you might like, same goes for nuts and cookies. It's your time to be creative. I love popping a little square of this delectable treat into my daughter's lunch bag. I'm sure she's thrilled to gobble it up and I hope she thinks of Mummy while she does. :o) I know it doesn't look like much and it might not even sound all that special, but I promise you when you have a bite you'll be instantly craving more and if you're at all like me, your mind will be racing with all the different things you can throw in to this chocolaty heaven. It's really something magical ~ a chocolaty, crunchy, decadent explosion in your mouth... mmmmmmm, tiffin...

The Mrs. Fav Tiffin

125g Le Petit Beurre, crumbled into smallish pieces
75g salted peanuts
50g dried cranberries
50g dessicated coconut (the flaked kind, not the sweetened one)
225g chocolate - semi-sweet chocolate or a combination of dark chocolate and milk chocolate
150g butter
1 generous tablespoon golden syrup

In a medium saucepan over a low flame, melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup. In a large bowl combine the cookies, nuts, dried fruit and coconut. Pour the melted chocolate and butter mixture over the cookies and other tasty bits and mix until everything is combined and covered in chocolate. Dump out into a 9inch square baking tin that has been greased well with butter. Pop the tiffin in the fridge for a few hours until it is set and hard. You should be able to pop it out after running a knife along the edges. Cut it into squares and store in the fridge for a delicious treat.