Today, I broke the box out of it's kitty-licious hiding place after reading about these fabulous cupcakes on Good Mood Food, my new daily read. The frosting was such a light alternative to the heavy versions you usually associate with cupcakes. The whipped cream gave a refreshing lightness while the crumb was very dense, it was the perfect combination.
I omitted the chocolate chips as I didn't have any handy and couldn't be bothered to chop a bar after mercilessly bashing 8 cookies to death. Also, the original recipe states the batter is enough for 8 cupcakes but I spread it out over 12 cases and still ended up with larger than average cuppies. I think I'll use this recipe as the base for all of my future cupcakes, they're flippin' massive!
I tried to give the dreggs of cream left in the bottom of the pot to my cats as a nice surprise and you'd think I was forcing rat poisoning upon them. I really believe I have lactose intolerant cats, or really fussy ones.
Since a friend of mine emailed me about his recent trip to Paris, all I've been able to think about are macaroons. I just can't get those brightly coloured little delights out of my mind. I still remember my first encounter, if you ignore the coconut variety of course. Around 3 years ago my dad treated Kris and I to our very first vacation together, Paris. Now, I'm not a huge fan of Paris, I find it very crass and a little too ornate. I like my cities to have a more rustic feel. But, even I have to admit, it's a very beautiful place to spend a romantic break. While we were there, we took a leisurely stroll down the Champs-Élysée and my gaze happened across the most beautiful window display I ever did see, that's right, Ladurée! Of course, Kris took one look at the prices and dragged me away from the colourful array of macaroons adorning the window. Not that I can blame him, they were pricey pastries.
Since the email, I've been craving the almondy, meringuey bite you only get from a macaroon. Enough was enough, I compiled the ingredients and got to work. My last attempt at macaroons was a total disaster, mostly because I forgot to let them sit out and when baked they all joined together to make nicely coloured sheet of goo. So, I learned from my previous mistakes and paid closer attention to the recipe ;)
I honestly think there's nothing more satisfying than just looking at a macaroon, don't they look pretty, so delicate and girly. I'm so proud of my tiny treats....despite the fact I burned half of them. Ooops! But, I still have a hand full of perfect shells and there's always next time.
I flavored the shells with a drop of rose water and filled them with a white chocolate and strawberry ganache. I found my filling a little too runny, as you can probably see from the picture, so next time I think I'll use a butter cream.
3 egg whites
50g caster sugar
200g icing sugar
50g ground almonds
2tbsp rose water
Whip egg whites till frothy, add the caster sugar gradually till you get a glossy meringue.
The original recipe calls for you to pulse the ground almonds and icing sugar to remove any lumps, I don't have one so I just forced the mixture through a sieve. Add the sieved mixture to the meringue and fold in quickly to start with slowing down as everything is Incorporated. The whole process shouldn't take more than 50 strokes. (I dropped some pink food colouring and rose water into the batter half way through the process)
Test your macaroon batter by dropping it onto a plate, if it flattens out on its own, you're good to go. If it keeps a little beak, give it a few more stirs.
My lovely parcel arrive a few days ago, but me being such a useless bugger missed the postman, something I always manage to do...even if I'm home. I automatically assumed it was something I'd ordered from Amazon, which I had no immediate need for, so it sat in the sorting office for a few days gathering dust. Rather than arrange a new delivery date (It would be just like me to rearrange delivery and miss it again) I sent Kris to pick it up on his way to work this morning, imagine my surprise when he sent me a text to say I had a massive box from America waiting for me. I sat for the next 5 hours, staring at he clock, willing it to be 5pm so I could rush home and rip into my box of delights. There wasn't a shred of work done in the office today, it can wait till Friday :)
My mystery present giver was the lovely Michelle from Big Black Dog. I adore Michelle's blog, her food always looks fabulous and she's an absolute darling to boot!
The first thing I saw when I tore open my parcel was this adorable rag doll. Michelle tells me he's a Kitchen Doll named Jessy. Jessy is to live in my kitchen and watch over me while I no doubt attempt to set fire to myself and slice off important appendages during my culinary exploits.
In Jessy's back pack was these beautiful home made pot holders! I was over the moon with these, really touched at the effort gone into making these cute oven mits :) I'm forever burning my hands on the oven so these will really come in handy and save me scorching my tea towels.
Also in his backpack was this olive wood tasting spoon. At first I thought it was a normal spoon with a decorative groove carved into the handle, but Michelle's letter soon explained all. The groove in the handle is a ravine, you fill the larger end with the hot liquid, tip it up and while the soup, or whatever you want to taste, runs through the channel it cools and will be at perfect drinking temperature by the time it reaches the end. Ingenious.
Next up I found these lovely tea towels and dish cloths. Michelle has an obsession with towels with loads of every colour. She didn't know what colour scheme I had in my kitchen but living in rented accommodation I have Magnolia paint on every wall in the house. Red fits perfectly :)
Now for my very favorite item in the box, a set of Wilton piping tips. I've been eyeing up a set of these for ages but kept putting off buying them. Lucky I did! I can't wait to put these to good use and practice my piping.
To go with the tips, a 14" decorating bag :)
Last but certainly not least is a set of Michelle's favorite sponges and a little caddy for them to live in. They're so pretty and purple I almost don't want to use them.....but I will.
I remember the Brawny brand from an old episode of the Simpsons, I chuckle every time I look at them :)
I absolutely love every item in my package, thank you so much Michelle! I can't wait for everyone else's packages to arrive so I can read all about it!
These past few days have been hectic, birthdays, Valentines, more birthdays, visits to the fair and a heck of a lot of uni work. I don't know how I even found time to breathe let alone fit in a batch of pretty cupcakes for my special someone.
I hand piped the hearts and flowers using a 2mm nozzle. Piping them was a total piece of cake, washing the bag afterward however has sullied my experience. Next time I think I'll invest in some disposable icing bags. It took all of my power not to just throw the damned thing right in the bin, stupid chocolaty mess!
The butterfly attempt melted in my hands a little, freezing may combat this next time :)
First order of business was to introduce the kitties to their first snowfall.
To say they didn't like it is probably an understatement, the parky beggars bolted back into the warm house the second their feet hit the ground! As I type this entry, Marmalade is sitting on the sofa giving me the evilest of looks. I doubt he'll ever trust me again. Better pick some Sheba up next time I go shopping, by way of an apology.
Of course, we built a snowman. Last year we lived n a tiny one bedroom flat which lacked a garden, and unless I wanted to make a winter friend on the balcony, there was no such fun to be had. So, this year we embraced the back garden and used up every last bit of snow to make Jacques. He looks French, doesn't he?
I especially like his hands! I'm an artist!
I saw this recipe for Black Bottom Cupcakes on one of my very favorite websites, Joy of Baking, and thought I'd give it a whirl. I was originally going to save them for Valentines this Saturday, but I just had to get my mind off my little pudding all alone in the vets.
Though the recipe is very simple, I think my cream cheese filling was a little on the thin side. So rather than sink to the bottom it simply formed a white layer over each cake. If I decide to make these again I think I'll up the quantity to around 250g of cheese.
As I was writing this post my little darling arrived home, shaved and a little shaken but otherwise OK. Well she must be, I've never seen a cat chow down on two tins of tuna consecutively. Hungry Horace! The vets said they had never heard such a chatty kitty, never stopped moaning the whole time she was in. Must take after her mum.
And finally, I just thought I'd share this macabre little scene Kris and I discovered in our back garden yesterday. While clearing the over turned lawn furniture from the decking, an old plant pot was tipped revealing the final frozen resting place for this poor spider. Kinda reminds me of a chilly Jurassic Park.
I can never remember the difference between a Cottage and a Shepard's Pie. I know one is made with lamb and one with beef but for the life of me I can never remember which is which. As I prefer the name Cottage Pie, that's what I choose to call the one I made today. Yep! To hell with convention!
Today was a pretty normal Sunday, lie in, visit to the local farm shop, nip into a boot sale on the way home. Quite a nice way to spend a day, there was just one difference, we weren't hungover. I think we're finally beginning to grow up. Hurrah! One thing I never realised is how cheap farm shops can be, I always had them pegged for expensive but that's just down to the sheer amount of stuff I buy :D I just wish it was a little closer. One thing I noticed was their 'BBQ in a Box' deal, I've stored that one away for Kris' birthday in June. A huge box filled with 1kg of your choice of Sausage, 10 Mixed Burgers, 10 Kofta Kebabs, 1 kg Rump Steak, 1kg Chicken Fillets, 10 Pork Spare Ribs. Perfect for a bunch of greedy boys and girls :D
I decided to put some of the massive potatoes, carrots and onions I bought to good use today and make a warming Cottage Pie (or whichever it really is). Normally I'd add some mashed turnip to the potato but Kris' face turned a fetching shade of green when I mentioned it so I just mashed a small amount and stuck it on the side of my plate. I'll convert him, one day.
Cottage (?!) Pie
2tbsp Vegetable Oil
500g Minced Lamb
2 Large Carrots, diced
1 Large Onion, diced
1 Clove of Garlic
300ml Beef Stock
Glug of Worcester Sauce
1tbsp Tomato Puree
Glug of Milk
Knob of Butter
50g Grated Cheese
Pinch of Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the mince, turn up the heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring until browned. Add the tomato puree, cook for 1 minute, then pour in the stock, Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for 5-10 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Season, then spoon into a 2-2.5-litre ovenproof dish.
For the mash, cut the potatoes into medium-size chunks and put into a large pan of cold salted water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and return to the pan to heat for 30 seconds to drive off the excess moisture. Mash with the milk and nutmeg. Season and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180C/fan160C/gas 4.
Spoon the mash onto the mince. Rough up with a fork and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for 25 minutes, until the mash is golden and crisp in places.
Happy World Nutella Day! What a wonderful day celebrating a wonderful spread, happy times. Today is a day for getting saucy with Nutella, bake with it, spread it on your toast or simply (and this is my favorite) eat it straight from the jar, yum! Check out today's hosts Ms Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso for more Nutella based fun!
Today is yet another snow day for most of the country but to me, it's just my day off from uni so I thought I'd try and find something I've never tried before. After much scouring of the world wide web all i could really find was Nutella Muffins or Brownies, all of which I've made before, then inspiration struck in the most obvious of places, the Nutella website. Why on earth didn't I try that first?! For some reason the recipe I chose was listed under Summer, I think this is much more of a Winter treat. Heavy bread slathered in Nutella, perfect for those cold mornings!
Of course I didn't have and Nutella to hand, which is odd considering I usually have an arsenal of the stuff at my disposal, only Green and Blacks chocolate spread which just wouldn't do. Of to the shops I went and the walk was actually rather pleasant despite the weather, probably had something to do with the lovely Iron and Wine songs on my current ipod rotation.
So, my contribution to this, the most hallowed of days (in my opinion) is this Nutella Swirl Ring! Not only does it look pretty, but it tastes like a continental breakfast while holidaying in Eastern Europe. The smell transported me straight back to Prague.
I think I may well submit this to Yeastspotting, it's been a while.
I have to admit, I'm much more of a winter baby than a sun worshiper. Cold>warm in my humble opinion, it could be the love I have for woolly tights, mittens and hats that sway me, but I'd much rather bundle up than dress down. This being said, I was obviously super jealous when I heard the excited cries of 'Snow Day, Snow Day'. Excitedly, I rang work and checked my uni emails on the off chance we also were to grind to a stand still but, no such luck. Damn! So, I bundled up and headed to my soggy doom ... a literature lecture. Stupidly I accentuated the curls in my naturally dried hair, by the time I got into university the words hedge and backwards ran through my drenched head.
What else do you need on a day like that but pie?! It's the only thing comforting enough to make a soggy Katie smile again.
Luckily I decided to nip into Marks and Spencer on my way home and the little bloody mind readers made my day in the form of a recipe card for Chicken and Leek Pie. Thank you M&S! I had the majority of ingredients to hand at home so I grabbed some leeks, apple juice (oh apple juice, how I love thee) and went back to brave the rain.
I added bacon and mushrooms to the recipe and boy, did it turn out well. I was loving the addition of mascarpone instead of a stock base, it gave the pie a beautifully rich tang.
You can find the recipe here on the M&S site along with the rest of the series. Check out the rhubarb meringue tart, I'll be giving that a go very soon!!
I feel I owe Amazon.com a letter of apology. A few weeks ago, in a fit of boredom, I ordered a small selection of those 101 bla bla cookbooks from the BBC Good Food line from our favorite Internet superstore. A week later I was getting a little aggravated at the lack of packages dropping upon my doormat, but as I'm sure you all know, Amazon are shockingly slow when you opt for the free delivery they now offer, so I decided to give it a few more days. Another week later, nothing had arrived! As a friends hen night is coming up, I decided to beat all the other girls to the punch (the theme is purple and I could see me turning up in a dress everyone else had decided to buy) and purchase my dress a month early, feeling saucy I even forked out a bit extra for next day delivery. The next morning the postman arrived before the birds had even started tweeting, and on a Saturday of all days, so of course I slept through his gentle rapping upon my door. I awoke to a 'Sorry we missed you' note, a bill from BT and no cookbooks. This was the straw that broke the camels back, so to say, and I started on an angry email to Amazon demanding my money back. Hell hath no fury like a woman robbed of her cookbooks!
Monday finally rolled around and I took a detour to the post office on my way to work. When I eventually received my package, after arguing that Katie is short for Catherine and I wasn't trying to rob an innocent girls package I saw a small Amazon package was strapped to the huge bag. Uh oh. Indeed it was my cookbooks and it was the fault of the damned Royal Mail and not the poor people from Amazons fault. It seems my package was to large for the letter box and taken back to the sorting office without my knowledge. How very annoying!
But, I got my books so everything worked out. For me, anyway. To calm my annoyance at the bloody postal service I set about making a Cinnamon Nutella Cake from the book 101 Cakes and Bakes. This was probably the easiest cake I have ever made, I could probably even trust my Kris to prepare it without setting the kitchen alight. Throw everything in a bowl, mix and bake! Easier than a box, even! Not only is it quick and easy, it's also a delight to eat. A beautiful wintery cake, perfect with a cup of tea and a nice afternoon film.
The recipe is also available online at BBC Good Food
I omitted the nuts as Kris won't have anything to do with them, silly sod!
My new favorite cook book is one that has been sitting on my shelf, untouched for months; Bundt Cake Bliss. This wonderful book escaped my attention for so long due to the fact it contains no pictures (I'm a massive child at heart), and I do believe that all cookbooks should contain at least a few mouth watering images; it gives us something to aim for, something to compare our results. Despite its lack of visual aids this book is a dream to read. Starting with the history of the bundt before explaining all you need to know about preparing the tin and baking these unusual cakes all wrapped up in a delightful 50's style package. But despite it's aesthetic appeal, this poor gem has sat gathering dust till Kris dragged me on a shopping trip to search for some black photo frames for the studio's ever depleting stock.
I'm not sure if TK Maxx is a nationwide store, but if it is, I would certainly recommend it to you, dear reader. It's a veritable treasure trove of kitcheny goodness and not only that, but it's oh so cheap! (I picked up a 4 pack of Lindt 70% chocolate for £2.50, that's reason enough to go!!) It's always my first stop for cake tins and such, perfect credit crunch shopping. While Kris was digging through the mountain of photo frames the store carries, I was left to browse the kitchenware department without the reluctant sighs of my lovely fiance, hurrah! Elbows deep in cake tins of all sizes, I discovered something I not only didn't own, but desperately wanted, a bundt tin. Not only this, but the base unit, which I had no intention of using, was severely dented allowing me to wangle and extra 25% off the already low low price. Happy and content I trotted home with my £2.99 bargain under my arm.
As I mentioned before, the credit crunch is having a major effect on every ones life in good old England. Because of this, trips into Newcastle's famous nightlife have pretty much ground to a halt, I'm lucky if I get out once a month these days. Not to let the lack of available funds get me down I dragged our very best friends to indulge in a night of baking and a mass of pear cider we recently acquired from Ikea. Who needs to go out when you have a lovely warm house and enough booze to sink a small ship?! Obviously, the girls baked while the boys shot each other on the Xbox before settling down to munch on our drunken efforts. And, they weren't half bad, considering....
If we neglect the hideous, quasimodo-esqe bulge I was forced to trim from the base that is ;)
Recipe adapted from Bundt Cake Bliss!
400g caster sugar
375g plain flour
225g unsalted butter
4 eggs, beaten
2tsp baking powder
zest of 3 lemons
1tbsp juice from a lemon
around 150g icing sugar (I didn't bother measuring, just threw it in a bowl and got to it)
Preheat oven to 180C/160C gas then prepare your bundt tin with butter and flour. Cream butter, sugar and lemon zest till light and creamy.
Add eggs one at a time beating hard after each addition, be careful not to let the mixture curdle.
Alternate the flour, baking powder and milk a little at a time mixing after each addition till just combined.
Spoon mixture into tin and level with the back of a teaspoon. Bake in the preheated oven for 1hr/1hr 10 mins or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Allow to sit in tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack and leave till completely cool then drizzle over the glaze and dust with a light sprinkling of icing sugar.