Peanut Butter Blossoms

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A few weeks ago Pet Lamb attended a less than fabulous market.  The high winds which hit the North of England and Scotland saw a four day market turn into a two day rush!  Thanks to the blustery weather I was left with an abundance of Hershey's Kisses which normally adorn the top of our double chocolate cupcakes.  Rather than resign myself to Kris munching his way through three huge bags, I decided to use them in some relaxing Christmas Eve baking.




I've seen these adorable cookies on many American blogs but always thought Hersheys Kisses were a little too pricey to use in such large numbers.  Up until recently I only ever saw them in the American food section of fancy food halls sporting a massively inflated price tag.  Thankfully the candy company appear to have started trading in the UK, supplying most major supermarkets for a pocket friendly price.  Now if only Junior Mints were to do the same!

Hershey's Peanut Butter Blossoms

Ingredients:
113g unsalted butter
170g smooth peanut butter
70g light brown sugar
65g caster sugar
1 large egg
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp baking soda
2tbsp milk
200g plain flour
1/4tsp salt

Method:
Preheat oven to 190C and place rack in the center of the oven. 
 
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until creamy and smooth. Add the peanut butter and sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat to combine. Beat in the milk. 

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the peanut butter mixture and beat until incorporated. Cover and chill the batter for about an hour, or until firm enough to roll into balls.

Roll the batter into 1 inch round balls. Place the granulated white sugar in a shallow bowl and roll each ball in the sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. 

Bake the cookies for about 8 - 10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned. Immediately upon removing the cookies from the oven, place a unwrapped Chocolate Kiss into the center of each cookie, pressing down gently until the cookie just starts to crack. Cool completely on a wire rack. 

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Lennon Wall - Prague

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During my recent trip to Prague I set myself the mission of finding the famous John Lennon Wall.  I've visited the city no less than six times and each time, due to ropey maps and guide books, I've gotten myself hopelessly lost trying to sniff out the landmark.  This time, armed with my trusty iPhone and Lonely Planet App nothing would stop me.

The infuriating thing was, once I finally discovered the wall it was actually located right behind the hotel in which I always stay.  D'oh!  Oh well, at least I actually found it.
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Hotel Chocolat Turkish Delight

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Recently I witnessed a distressing Twitter debate.  It seems, a lot of you twitterati don't like turkish delight?!  I know, I can't believe it either!  Ever since the White Witch enchanted young Edmund with some of the magical rose scented candy in the land of Narnia I was a girl obsessed.  So here it is, I'm begging you, give turkish delight a chance.  I bet, if you let it, it can enchant you too :)


Need some more persuading?  Well how about this, the lovely folk at Hotel Chocolat have given me a stunningly beautiful wooden box filled with my favorite turkish delight to give away to one of you lucky people!  Interested?  Read on, dear follower.


Leave a comment on this post to let the world know you're either pro turkish delight (yay) or against (boo).  The winner will be announced on Friday 30th December!


Don't forget to check out Hotel Chocolat's gorgeous Christmas range, it's not too late for some last minute deliciousness!


Stay tuned for what I have planned for this mouth watering box of sweeties in the next few days, it's going to make the perfect Christmas gift for a rose loving vodka drinker ;)
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Coconut Macarons

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Why hello again, it's been a while hasn't it?  If you follow me on Twitter you'll understand my lengthy absence from blogging, Kris and I just made the leap into home ownership.  Hurray!  The journey has been maddening, stressful and, in places, downright miserable but all of that now seems like a distant memory.  Well, if you ignore the fact I've been without a fridge freezer for three weeks of course. 


I'd love to say that these delicious macarons were the first sweet treat to christen my brand new kitchen but alas, 500 cupcakes have adorned the counter tops since we moved in. No rest for the wicked, or so they say. 

I've been on a bit of a coconut kick recently, I just can't get enough of the fresh flavour and satisfying crunch.  I experimented with some coconut ice cupcakes for Pet Lamb last week and decided to try out some macarons with the left over coconut.  Lets just say, the decision paid off!

Sadly the pied didn't form correctly.  I put this down to the fact my baking sheet was too big for my new oven so had to bake the macarons with the door more than slightly ajar.  Time to buy some new cookie sheets if you ask me ;)


Coconut Macarons

Ingredients:
3 large egg whites
2tbsp caster sugar
150g of icing sugar
40g dessicated coconut
60g ground almonds

Method:

Preheat oven to 150C fan and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

Whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until soft peaks appear.  While still whisking, pour in the caster sugar and continue to mix until sugar dissolves and the meringue is thick and glossy.

Add the icing sugar, almonds and coconut in two batches, folding the dry mix into the meringue between additions.  Try not to over mix, about 50 turns of the spoon should do it.

Transfer macaron mix into a piping bag fitted with a large, circular nozzle.  Pipe out circles of batter onto the lined tray about 1.5" in diameter leaving 2" between each macaron.  Drop the baking tray on the counter twice to flatten out the macarons and leave for fifteen minutes to form a skin.

Place macarons into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Once cooled sandwich the macaron halves together using your favorite filling, I used buttercream flavoured with coconut essence.  Why not try lemon or raspberry?
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11/11/11

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They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
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Laura Ashley - Top of the Tea Shops

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Today I'll be guest posting over at the wonderful new blog for one of my favorite shops, Laura Ashley!  Check it out for my top tips on places to grab a cuppa in Newcastle Upon Tyne.
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Happy Halloween

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Halloween has always been my favorite holiday!  Sadly it isn't as appreciated or celebrated much in this country but every year my closest friends and I get together and do something spooky to celebrate.  Last year we were in Florida getting chased around a theme park by zombies with chainsaws, this year we decided to throw a costume party followed by some ghost hunting in the wind swept wilds of Northumberland while listening to Night Owls.  Unfortunately I didn't get around to taking any snaps of the decorated house or the spread I put on but I thought I'd share a few of my favorite party goers costumes with you.

Myself and Kris as a Day of the Dead Bride and Marty McFly



Sweeney Todd & Bambi's Mam


Miss Argentina & Steve Jobs
Kick Ass & Baby Doll

Katy Perry & Zombie Farmer Ryan

The Riddler & Undead Ghoul
 
 I hope you all had a fabulous Halloween.  Did you get into the spirit and dress as something ghoulish?  I sure hope so!
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Lunch Date @ The Town Wall

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Last night Kris and I settled down in front of the TV for an episode of our favorite comedy show, How I Met Your Mother.  I'm a huge lover of Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel so I was always going to be a big fan, I may have forced it on Kris but hey, he makes me watch all sorts of rubbish so we'll call it even!  During last nights episode the gang go in search of a burger joint which Marshall claims makes the best burgers in New York City.  After thirty minutes of witnessing five people rush around New York eating dozens of burgers we were left for an intense craving for the meaty treat.  At that point we made a decision to go on a little lunch date, a search for Newcastles best burger, if you will.


We ended up in fairly new establishment, The Town Wall pub on Pink Lane.  I've frequented this place many times on the evenings, drinking myself silly with peach and strawberry beer but have never experienced their food offerings.  After hearing nothing but good things from our friends, we decided to give it a go.


The Town Wall is a cosy bar serving a healthy amount of fine ale, beers and spirits, they even have their very own brew, the Toon Waal Ale brewed specially for them by Wylam Breweries!  The food menu is nothing to be sniffed at too offering the usual pub grub but with some delightful twists such as the Proper Pub Platter with home made scotch eggs, sausage rolls and heaps of artisan bread.  Sometimes your day just isn't complete without a scotch egg!


I went for the wild mushroom risotto (my beef craving had subsided by then) while Kris stayed true and ordered the butchers burger with extra cheese.  I have to say, I wasn't expecting much from the risotto presuming the rise would come over cooked and the wild mushrooms would be replaced with chestnuts.  Well, I was wrong!  The rice was cooked perfectly with just the right amount of bite and the dish was studded with many different varieties of mushrooms.  The pesto dressing was a delightful addition, the only thing missing was huge shavings of Parmesan, but maybe that's just me.


Kris' burger was just what he was craving.  The patty was made from 100% beef so was served pink and perfectly juicy while the chips were crisp and fluffy.  What a combo!


I shall be returning to the Town Wall again soon and I insist you join me!

The Town Wall
Pink Lane
NE1 5HX
0191 232 3000
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Mini Cupcake Maker

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When the lovely Joanna from Find Me a Gift asked me if I'd like to review a mini cupcake maker I jumped at the chance.  Cupcake makers are something I've always wondered about, do they work, do they produce yummy results, surely they can't be as good as making them in the oven?  Well, here was my chance to answer all of my questions...



When the cupcake maker arrived I unpacked it, stood back and did a little 'awwwh'.  It's super cute for a start, all pink and canny, which little girl wouldn't love this for Christmas?!  After the initial cute factor I read the instructions expecting there to be something rather complex to make the whole process unsuitable for a little person, I was wrong.  Everything about the cupcake maker is just so simple, a monkey could use it.  Oil the cavities, fill with batter, close the lid and wait.  That's it!


Six minutes later I popped the cupcake maker open to reveal seven adorable bite sized chocolate chip muffins.  They slid out of the cavity with such ease, it was a little satisfying if I'm honest.  Now, do they stand up to the taste test?  The answer is yes, moist and taste and ready in less than ten minutes.  What more could you want?!


I tried the cupcake maker with both mini liners and unlined and much preferred the unlined cakes.  They rose up larger and were real easy to pop out of their little moulds. Plus, you could stick em straight into your open mouth, chomp!


My verdict, the mini cupcake maker is the perfect gift for any budding baker this Christmas.  Just think, you could have a batch of warm muffins on the table in minutes perfect for those surprise visitors.  No mess, no fuss, just cupcakes!

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Pumpkin Brown Butter Cupcakes

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Isn't the weather just perfect right now? Bright sun but the air has a delightful chill to it, it's starting to look a lot like Autumn finally.  Right now, there is nothing more comforting than sitting home, pot of tea on the table with a hunk of lightly spiced cake and a good book.  If, like me, you live in a house with few people you probably steer away from baking a huge cake unless you're expecting guests, this is where these cupcakes come in.  If you don't want to eat them right away, no problem.  Pop them in the freezer along with a bag of frosting and you have delicious cake every day for a fortnight!



These cupcakes take no time at all, no need to cream the fat and sugar together, no adding of milk and flour separately, just pop the ingredients into a bowl and mix.  The most difficult part of making these cupcakes is browning the butter, which is just so super simple.  Go for it!  

Pumpkin and Brown Butter Cupcakes
(Adapted from Martha Stewarts Cupcakes)

Ingredients: 
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for tins
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for tins
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, cut into chiffonade (optional)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

Method:
Preheat oven to 160C. Line a cupcake tin with some spooky liners. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the sage, if desired, and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until butter turns golden brown. Skim foam from top, and remove from heat. Pour into a bowl to stop the cooking, leaving any burned sediment behind; let cool.
 
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, both sugars, eggs, and brown-butter mixture. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
 
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
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Ampersand

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When an old friend of mine recently posted an image of her wearing an ampersand pendant on Instagram I fell instantly in love.  Being English Literature graduates I think the necklace is quite fitting, I had to have one.  I set about tracking one down on Google and came across Isette, a lovely Etsy store described as "Design and Victoriana with a twist of whimsy".  After browsing through the array of beautiful necklaces on offer I eventually decided upon the Harrington Ampersand Necklace in Bamboo





I'm in love!

I will defiantly be returning to Isette in the future.  I have a huge soft spot for laser cut jewelry and the decorative nature of Isettes products are just stunning.  Next on the to buy list is the Villain Moustache Necklace, it's just too cute to resist.
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Raspberry & White Chocolate Blondies

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As a final farewell (and good riddance) to the summer and, hopefully, this dreadful heat wave I decided to utilise the final batch of raspberries I had stashed in the freezer and whip up some raspberry blondies.  For a touch of luxury I used my last bars of Lindt Touch of Vanilla white chocolate, flecked with tiny vanilla seeds it took all of my will power not to just eat it straight out of the packet.


These are so lovely, the slight burning of the butter adds a delicious caramel flavour and the vanilla chocolate is so delicate.  Studded with crimson raspberries these blondies are perfect to see off the sun.  So, bake some blondies, enjoy the last of the heat and prepare your scarves and hats for the forthcoming chill.  Hurrah!

Raspberry & White Chocolate Blondies
(from BBC Good Food Magazine)

Ingredients:
200g unsalted butter , plus extra for the tin
150g white chocolate , roughly chopped
300g light muscovado sugar 
3 large free range eggs 
200g plain flour
¼ tsp table salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g raspberries

Method: 
Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Butter, then line, a shallow rectangular tin, approx 25cm x 22cm. Melt the butter in a pan, then cook gently for about 5 minutes, until the white solids turn golden and the butter smells biscuity and sweet. Cool for 5 minutes, then add half the white chocolate and set aside for a couple of minutes to melt. Stir until smooth. 

Use electric beaters to whisk the muscovado sugar and eggs together for about 2 minutes until thick and pale. Tip in the flour, salt, cooled chocolatey butter and vanilla, then fold in with a metal spoon or spatula until even. 

Pour the mix into the tin, then scatter with the rest of the chocolate and the raspberries. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until risen all over, with a dark golden crust. Cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares.

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Sticky Apple and Gingerbread Pecan Loaf

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The best thing about the colder months just has to be the food.  Everything gets so rich, so deep and so delectably, rib stickingly comforting.  I'm choosing to ignore the fact that there is heat wave on its way and the sun is currently bleating through my back door, instead closing my eyes and imagining howling wind and rain beating upon the window.  My imaginary land is the perfect place for this cake, screw you sun, I'm Autumns girl!  


This loaf is just so delicious and if you can't face eating it all yourself right away, wrap it in cling film and it should keep for up to five days.  Not only that, but it actually gets taster with age.  Much like Alan Rickman.... mmmmm!



Sticky Apple & Gingerbread Pecan Loaf

Ingredients:
150g unsalted butter
150g soft dark brow sugar
150g golden syrup
200ml milk
250g plain flour
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large free range eggs
50g pecans, roughly chopped
3 balls of stem ginger, chopped
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks.

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan.  Grease and line a 2ltr loaf tin.  Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a small pan, stir through the milk and allow to cool.

Sift the flour with the dry spices and baking powder into a bowl, make a well in the center and pour in the cooled milk mixture.  Stir through with a wooden spoon using a circular motion. Fold in the eggs, pecans, ginger and apple.

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes. Cool for five minutes in the tin, the remove to a wire rack.  Serve warm, cold, toasted or slathered with cream. However you will :)
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National Cupcake Week, Day Three - Cut Out Decorations

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When it comes to decorating cupcakes it's often the simplest ideas that give the most eye catching effect.  Cut out decorations are one of the easiest and quickest ways to decorate a cake and is a technique I often lean toward when tarting up basic flavours for Pet Lamb.  Add a flower here, a butterfly there and you're left with something much more attractive than just a plain old vanilla covered in sprinkles.

To start with you need your cutters.  I have a huge collection of cutters but these three are my sure fire favorites.  A simple blossom, rose and butterfly cutter pared with your favorite coloured fondant and you're ready to go.  You can pick items like these up at any cake decorating store or even Amazon for some speedy next day delivery.



To make the cute lil flowers above all you need to do is follow these simple steps.  First, roll out some green fondant to around 5mm thick and stamp out six shapes with your medium rose cutter and lay each 'leaf' into the indentation in an artists palate (I got mine from Paperchase, 60p each).

Next do the same with your pink fondant and stamp out six shapes with your medium blossom cutter.  Lay the blossoms over the leaves at a slightly offset angle ensuring that you can still see a little green poking through the petals.  Give the middle of each flower a little dusting of pink luster dust and leave to set for 24 hours.  Once set, slide the flowers from their little home and you're ready to decorate!



For the butterflies follow the steps for the flowers but rather than leaving to dry in a palate make yourself a little paper nest for them to set.  Grab the cover of an old magazine, cut it into thick strips and fold them into little Constantina so they make an M shape when stood on a table.  Place the butterflies into the V shape and leave to dry for 24 hours.


And voilà, there you have cupcakes that will wow and amaze your friends and family.  Happy decorating!

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