Lychee Martini

I've always been a little bit obsessed with lychees.  Fresh, canned, juiced, I love them all.  I recently went for a meal with the in-laws to a lovely little Asian restaurant in Newcastle called Fat Buddha.  It was here my lovely sister in law (to be, if I ever stop spending the wedding fund) introduced me to the deliciousness that is a lychee martini.  Since our visit to said restaurant I haven't been able to get that delicious cocktail out of my head so I decided to collect some ingredients and toast in the New Year with a gorgeous fruity lychee martini.

What are you doing for New Years Eve?  Whatever it is you chose to do, be safe and have a fabulous time!  Here's to 2013!

Lychee Martini
(serves one)

25ml vodka
25ml lychee liqueur
dash sugar syrup
75ml lychee juice

combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice.  Shake it up, good and proper, and strain into a chilled martini glass.  Garnish with a canned or fresh lychee if you wish and enjoy.

Coconut Cream Pie Cupcakes

Life is finally starting to settle into quiet bliss; the shop has calmed down and the last Christmas market has been and gone leaving us exhausted and content.  I was starting to feel like a little bit of a scrooge this year, I haven't had the time nor energy to really think about Christmas and all of the festivities that come with it.  My decorations were still locked away in my loft and my tree stand was gathering dust in the shed, lord knows what my neighbors must have thought looking in at my bare home. Not a fairy light to be seen through my living room window.  Well, all of that changed today.  I had a word with the lovely guy who runs a nursery and sells his bonny wares up from Pet Lamb, and a stunning tree was delivered to my home this morning.  Fairy lights were strung, baubles were wrestled from the greedy paws of the cats, My living room is now suitably festive and beautifully cosy.  

In between untangling strings of glittering lights I found the time to make some delightfully moreish cupcakes.  Decorating a tree is hungry work you know.  

Making your own creme patisserie may sound daunting, but it really couldn't be easier and it's far tastier than shop bought.  Just keep a close eye on your pan and you can't go wrong.

Coconut Cream Pie Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

175g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
175g self raising flour
75g dessicated coconut
3 large eggs
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp coconut extract
2tbsp milk

Creme Patisserie:
300ml whole milk
1tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
50g caster sugar
20g plain flour
20g cornflour

125g Butter
350g icing sugar
3tbsp milk
1tsp vanilla extract

For the creme patisserie:
In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together.  Sift the flour and cornflour together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk and vanilla bean just to boiling.  Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg curdling in the mixture, pour through a strainer.) Add your vanilla extract to the egg mixture, then pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 - 60 seconds until it becomes thick. Remove from heat.  Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature while you get on with your cupcakes.

For the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 180C - 160C fan and line a cupcake tray with 12 liners.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, coconut and baking powder. Set aside.   Place the butter and sugar in an electric mixer and mix until light and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition.  Add the flour mixture in one go ensuring all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.  Stir through the milk.

Fill the cupcake liners to 2/3 full and bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan for five minutes before removing to finish cooling on a rack.  Once cool hollow out the centre of each cake using and apple corer and fill with the cool creme patisserie.

For the frosting place the soft butter and icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low to combine.  Still mixing slowly add the milk until you reach the desired consistency.  Pipe or swirl onto each cake and enjoy.


Peppermint Marshmallows

The snow has started falling up here in Newcastle and that means one thing, steaming mugs of cocoa topped off with delicious homemade marshmallows.  Homemade marshmallows really are leagues apart from their supermarket counterparts, the texture and delicate flavour are so perfect and fluffy you could be chewing on a peppermint cloud.  The method may seem a little scary, boiling sugar is never something that should be taken lightly, but as long as you're careful it really couldn't be any simpler.  

I've added peppermint extract to these marshmallows but feel free to flavour them however you wish.  Vanilla, rose or even coffee would work wonders, just change the colours to match your tastes.

Peppermint Marshmallows
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

Vegetable-oil cooking spray
450g cups sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
4 packages gelatin
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons red food coloring

Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper. Coat the parchment with cooking spray, and set pan aside. Put sugar, golden syrup, and 175ml water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring; let mixture come to a boil. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until mixture registers 260 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over 175ml cup water in a heatproof bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften. Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture over a pan of simmering water; whisk constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in extract; set aside.

Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Whisk gelatin mixture into sugar mixture; with mixer running, gradually add to egg whites. Mix on high speed until very thick, 12 to 15 minutes.

Pour mixture into lined pan. Working quickly, drop dots of red food coloring across surface of marshmallow. Using a toothpick, swirl food coloring into marshmallow to create a marbleized effect. Let marshmallow stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight. Cut into squares.

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