7.22.2014

Welcome to America

My parents moved us around a few times while I was growing up. So, I have lived in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Minnesota. We never left the Mid-West, but it's amazing how states are different. 


It's also amazing the amount of friends and family I have spread across that area. Today my girls and I are flying to Minnesota to stay with my parents for five weeks! We won't be able to see everyone, but we will be meeting up with as many people as we can. 

I do plan to have some down time and in that time I hope to update my blog with any foodie things I do! 

I have some blog posts already pre-dated over the first few weeks, just a few things I have been up to this past week. There are books, bars, cupcakes, and a giveaway! 

There is hope that I will be Tweet-ing, Instagram-ing, Pinterest-ing and Facebook-ing as well so be sure to follow me! I usually follow back as long as I haven't hit any following limits so please find me and say hi! 


7.18.2014

Coconut Lover Coconut Cake

There are either coconut lovers or coconut haters. It’s a rare thing to be an “in-betweener” when it comes to coconut.

It’s like having a rare blood type.

I happen to be a coconut lover. I love it in baked goods and in savory dishes. It is also one of those flavors that pairs well with a variety of fruit.

But for this cake it was all coconut: coconut cake with coconut frosting!

I actually made this cake a while back when I was hosting my friends with a chili night! It all started when I was asked if I made cornbread.

Of course I said yes and then before I knew it my girlfriends were round for chili with cornbread and a coconut cake for dessert. I felt like staying with the Southern American feel of the meal.

The cake was soft and spongy and the frosting was smooth and silky both with the right amount of coconut flavor! 

We had some great food that night, if I do say so myself. That coupled with the great company was a very good night! Who could ask for more?

They did ask for the recipe, which I still haven’t gotten to them so I thought, might as well pop it on here!


Coconut Cake:

235g plain flour
4 tbsp corn flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
170g unsalted butter, room temp & cubed
6 egg whites
240ml coconut milk
120g sweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Heat the oven to 180C. Grease two round (8in) cake tins lightly flour, tap out any excess flour.
Sift the flour, corn flour, and baking powder into the bowl of a mixer or a large bowl if hand mixing it. Mix in the sugar and salt until combined. While mixing on a low speed add the butter cube by cube and mix until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.
In a separate bowl beat the egg whites, coconut milk, shredded coconut and the vanilla paste until well combined.
Add half of the wet mixture to the dry and beat until combined. Scrap the sides and bottom of the bowl before adding the rest of the wet mixture. Mix on a medium speed for about 25 seconds, it should be light and fluffy.
Divide the batter between the two prepared cake tins. Bake for 30-40 minutes. The tops should be a light brown and should spring back when lightly pressed. Let cool completely in the pans before removing.


Coconut Frosting:

300g caster sugar
6 egg whites
342g unsalted butter, room temp &cubed
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
160ml coconut milk

While the cakes are cooling and not before because the frosting needs to be used pretty much right away and it won’t go well on a hot cake!
In a heat proof bowl mix the sugar and egg whites together, place on top of a simmering pot of water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water) and whisk for 6-8 until the sugar dissolves. It will thin out as the sugar dissolves.
Then place the mixture into the stand mixer and whip with the whisk attachment for 6-8 minutes on a medium speed until it’s cooled down and turns into a light meringue.
Turn the mixture down to low and add the butter cube by cube. Once all the butter is incorporated turn the mixture up to medium and whisk for 4-5 minutes, it will look curdled at one point, but keep mixing it will come together to be smooth and glossy.
Then add the vanilla extract, salt, and coconut milk and whisk for about 1-2 minutes or until smooth.

to finish:

120g sweetened shredded coconut

Remove the cakes from the tins and level them if necessary. Place one layer on a serving plate or cake stand or whatever you have before dolloping a bunch of frosting on top of the layer.
Smooth it on the top and down the sides before carefully placing the second layer on top, upside down so the sharp edges are on top.
Add a thin layer of frosting as a crumb coat and let it set before adding the rest of the frosting. Once it’s frosted coat the cake in the shredded coconut!



notes: This recipe is adapted from flour by Joanne Chang. 

7.16.2014

Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Matthew Amster-Burton {book review}

I long for the days when I only had to think of myself at meal times. I know what I like and therefore I find it easy to feed myself.

Now I have a husband and two little people have likes and dislikes of their own. Which means dinnertime especially can be nothing short of my worst nightmare.

To be fair to my husband it’s not his fault he’s allergic to all citrus, but it is something I have to accommodate for.

My Mini-Baker loves all veggies and will try anything and everything at least once. My Baby-Baker loves meat and point blank refuses to try anything.

When I first became a mom I did stress about food. My Mini-Baker didn't like jarred baby food nor did she like homemade food, whole or pureed. She was only happy with toast and some fruits.

I felt like I was failing at one of the 3 fundamental things that all children (and adults) need: food, clothes, shelter.

I wish I had this book then, I would have saved me a lot of stress and allowed me to relax and know that it would be okay. It wasn't until she was 8 or 9 months old that I realized there was no need to stress. I caught her watching my fork go to the plate to my mouth. From then on she ate what we ate and did so just fine. 

According to Amazon I bought this book in 2011 well after both my little ones were weaned, so there were parts that I really related too.

He tells us how at first he was very smug at his 2 year old ate pretty much everything, but little did he know that by the time she was 3 she would start to get picky.

When Mini-Baker was about 2 ½ years old she loved Chilli Beef, our local Chinese does the best, so I didn't blame her. We were so tired of her stealing ours we ordered her her own portion and she ate all of it. I was so smug about it I told everyone!

We took her again for a treat around 6 months later and again ordered her her own portion expecting her to demolish it. No, such luck she decided that it wasn't that good and much preferred to just eat the rice. I wasn't so smug after that and was prepared when her sister came along.


Baby-Baker currently loves olives and hot sauce, sometimes together. But I know one day that might not be the case. For know though we have lots of olives because I love them too.

This is the reason that children are so hard to feed. One day they love something the next day they don’t.

Now that they are both older and discovering their own tastes when I meal plan they get to suggest something they would like for dinner. I always listen because it saves me the hassle of figuring out what to make!

If you are a foodie, parent, or both this book is for you. It’s full of parenting truths only learned by experience, but it’s also full of recipes!

In chapter 18 he states that his food fantasy is to take his daughter to Toyko for the ultimate culinary vacation. Well his fantasy came true as he writes about it in his second book Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo which I have downloaded on my kindle app and will be reading while I am visiting in the USA!

If you are a parent I would love to hear what your kids favorite foods and dishes are! Please leave a comment below! 

notes: I bought this book as stated above years ago, I have just re-read it and felt like writing down my thoughts on it. I will be posting a post on my summer reading soon! Matthew Amster-Burton also writes a blog called Roots and Grubs.

7.14.2014

Happy Birthday Mr. President

In May of 1962 Marilyn Monroe sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the President of the United States in a sexy sultry way that has made history.

First it was one of her last public performances, but mostly because of the alleged affair between her and JFK.

Not gonna lie I love a good conspiracy! Did they have an affair? Did JFK have anything to do with her death? We will never know!

If I don’t step away I can drive myself crazy with that sort of stuff. So, I will leave the conspiracies to theorists and I will get on with the cake making!

I am a little behind in posting this cake, it was about a month ago that a friend’s son was turning 21, and he requested this cake for his birthday.

The cake was a marbled vanilla and chocolate tray bake with a layer of buttercream before the top layer of white sugar paste.

Our friend gave me the stencil- that was super useful! So, with the stencil and my cake painting knowledge from Sprinklebakes I made this:




It is a simple design, but it has a bold stylish effect. The color pastes were gently mixed with a little vodka to make it easy to spread out and it turned out exactly how we all wanted it too!


I also gave them a pan of chili brownies because they were the same friends that requested chili brownies and told me they weren't hot enough! So, this time I added a bit more chilies to the brownies and they said they did have a bit more of a kick to them! I guess I will have to up my game again! 

7.07.2014

Four for Less: New Baking Books & my thoughts

I haven’t been buying a lot of new cookbooks, but that’s not to say there aren't ones that I want! 

There will always be books I want, but I have been a bit more sensible lately and actually passed along a few of the books that I haven’t used recently.

I have also refrained from replacing ever one of the books I gave away with new ones. I only replaced four of them.

With these:

Which is still less then the amount I gave away! 

The Book of Buns: Over 50 brilliant bakes from around the world by Jane Mason

I like it!

Description (from the back cover): “From every corner of the world this beautiful collection of recipes will inspire you to bake buns – both familiar and new – and share them with your friends and family as part of a wholesome meal or as an indulgent treat to celebrate a special occasion.” 

My thoughts: I bought this from The Book People as it was at a really reasonable price. I don’t have the best of luck with breads, but it is an area that I want to pursue a bit more. Also I like the idea that the recipes are inspired from different cultures all over the world. Jane Mason starts by saying a bun is a bun is a bun. Basically saying buns are universal. She then shares with us the basic bread ingredients we will need to create buns and some shaping techniques used in bun making. Then the book is split into two categories – Everyday Buns and Occasional Buns.

Here are a few recipes, from both categories, I have book marked to try out: Laugenbrotchen, Sfoof, Bun Muska, Iced Buns, Skillingsboller, Coconut Buns, and Apple Buns.

Patisserie by William and Suzue Curley

I love it!

Description (from the inside cover): “Patisserie is an introduction to the most revered of culinary disciplines; it illuminates and explains this often-daunting field, leading you through the basics toward a world of beautiful and elegant patisserie. For beginners and the more advanced alike, this is the essential masterclass in patisserie and is set to become a classic book on the subject.” 

My thoughts: The publishers sent this book to me after I re-tweeted their post and won a copy! It is a beautifully published book, but it’s not just what it looks like it’s smart too. It is a wealth of information. Not only are we given the authors credentials, but they give us the evolution of patisserie, which I found very interesting. Food history is interesting to me. Then they give us the basics so ingredients, equipment, and some tips to get us started. If this isn't daunting then we can move on to the next part which is how to make the foundations of all patisserie which is what you need before you create some beautiful desserts.

This is one of those books that I love looking at and I have been carrying it around with me for a couple of weeks now reading and looking at all the mouth watering and awe inspiring patisserie! I would love to attempt to make all of it! Hopefully with my littlest one starting full time school in September I will have a little bit more time to give to seeing how well I do at patisserie!

Sally’s Baking Addiction: Irresistible Cookies, Cupcakes, & Desserts for Your Sweet-Tooth Fix by Sally McKenney

I love it!

Description (from the back cover): “Sally McKenney started her wildly popular blog Sally’s Baking Addiction in 2011, and she’s made the internet a whole lot sweeter! So whether you like cookies, cupcakes, brownies, bars, candy, cakes, pies, or muffins, there’s a tempting treat for you. Indulge in Sally’s Death by Chocolate Brownies, her Pretzel Peanut Butter Cups, her Nutella Frosted Banana Cupcakes and loads more.”

My thoughts: I was a little late to the party when I stumbled upon Sally’s blog a while back. There was a recipe for something I was after and when I goggled it her site came up. I was hooked from the first look. The writing and photography were great, but the sweet treats were even better. One of the posts I read was about how her book was out. So, of course I went to Amazon and ordered myself a copy.

The cookie section is my favorite and it’s fitting, as there are cookies on the cover. The other recipes look good too, but I love a good soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside cookie. I can’t wait to give the Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Cookies a go! If you like Sally’s blog you’ll love her book.

Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube presents: The Cake Book by Cupcake Jemma

I want some more of it!

Description (from the back cover): Jemma Wilson from Crumbs & Doilies is the cupcake queen of Food Tube. Featuring four chapters of beautiful seasonal recipes, plus the need-to-know basics, this book has all the essentials for amazing baking all year round.

My thoughts: This book I picked up at Sainsbury’s for a bargain at 3.50! I already own a couple of cupcake books and wouldn't have bought it at full price. Mainly because it didn't have anything particularly new to me, but I would recommend this to anyone who doesn't have as many baking books as I do! It also doesn't mean that I won’t be trying out a few of these recipes as soon as I get a chance! It’s a wonderful little book that has a lot of inspiration and it fits in a bag so you can take it anywhere and drool over the pictures!

I think I will be trying the Cookie Dough Cupcakes or the Toffee Apple Cupcakes ... or wait maybe the Cherry Bakewell Cupcakes. Or even better yet I should try all of them as someone on Instagram suggested!

notes: I haven’t had a chance to try any recipes from these books yet. It’s not very often that I “review” books without trying out a recipe, so for this post it’s just me sharing and writing about some new books I required. I bought or won these books, for more information please see my contact/policy page. Find me on Instagram 

7.02.2014

Oatly Espresso Cupcakes - for a real Buzz

I attended Food Blogger Connect so that I could learn more about the online foodie world I have gotten myself into! I wouldn't be anywhere else I love it here!

I do love books though; sometimes I wonder if I had put a bit more time into my book blog I would be somewhere else right now?

There isn't enough time for what-ifs and I figured I might start combining my love for food and books anyway (see my side bar for what I’m reading now)!

I’m just getting off topic this post is about Oatly… wait I haven’t gotten there yet.

At Food Blogger Connect I learned a lot and I ate a lot! In-between all the learning we had snack breaks and one of the brands there was Oatly - they were serving these amazing Coffee Shakes and delicious cinnamon rolls.

The coffee shakes were so good I kept going back for more! Oatly has a subtle oat flavor that I found refreshing and delicious; even better when paired with espresso.

Oatly is a nutritious alternative to milk. It is full of oaty goodness and made of natural ingredients no crazy additives here.

On the second day of FBC14 I started chatting with the ladies who were at the table and when I said I was a baker and would be interested in using Oatly in my baking they loaded me up with some of the product to try!

I couldn't get the Coffee Shake out of my head and so I decided to make espresso cupcakes. They turned out beautifully and had a very subtly nutty taste that just added to the flavor. One of these cupcakes could easily replace my morning cup of coffee! 


Oatly Espresso Cupcakes

20g instant espresso powder
240ml oat drink
80g margarine
280g sugar
240g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs

Heat the oven to 190C. Line the muffin pan(s) with liners; this recipe makes more then 12.
Weigh out the espresso powder in a small saucepan then add the oat drink. Gently heat the mixture until the powder dissolves. Take off the heat.
Beat the margarine, sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Add the eggs to the slightly cooled espresso oat drink and gently whisk. Combine about 1/3 of the espresso/egg mixture with the dry ingredients and beat on a low speed. Increase the speed to medium while gradually adding the rest of the milk until the batter is smooth. Using an ice cream scoop fill the liners with batter (about ¾ full) and bake for 18-20 minutes or until it springs back when gently prodded and if a skewer comes out clean. While they are cooling on a rack make the frosting.

frosting

50ml creamy oat
16g instant espresso powder
250g icing sugar
80g margarine

Like the cupcakes weigh out the espresso powder in a small saucepan before adding the cream and heat just long enough to dissolve the espresso powder without boiling it, like I did the first time because one of my children were bleeding from a small cut after stepping on a rock. It smells burnt if you boil it and then you have to start again. Once it’s done right set it aside to cool
Beat the icing sugar and margarine together to look like breadcrumbs, and then gradually add the espresso cream to taste. Once it’s to your liking increase the speed and beat until lighter in color and spread-able.

to finish

Optional toppings- chocolate covered coffee beans or chocolate sprinkles

Using a pallet knife scoop some frosting on top of the cooled cupcake and spread evenly and then top with chosen topping.


I still have some Chocolate Oatly and an alternative to single cream left to use up so who knows what I’ll make next? I mean really I haven’t thought of anything to use it for so it’ll be just as a surprise for me as it is for you!

If you’re looking for Oatly it’s found in Waitrose, big Sainsbury’s and Tesco, or Holland & Barrett. The full range of products can be found online. I really want to try the Chai Oat Drink. I love chai as much as I love espresso.

notes: If you want to see what I learned at FBC14 check my post here! If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have seen my love for books in my tweets for #bookadayuk or #fridayreads I love to talk books so tweet me if you’re reading a good one! If you are interested to learn more about Oatly visit their website they are nice people. I was given the product to try, but I was not asked to post about it. Please see my contact/policy page for further information. The recipe is adapted from hummingbird bakery Cake Days

6.30.2014

Some Serious Strawberry Shortcake

Recently I have been thinking of home, home being America.

I haven't been back for years. Things like life and money just always seemed to get in the way.

It was a priority for me to see my family this year so with the help from my parents we booked tickets for the end of July. 

I know a lady from South Africa who's husband gets upset when she refers to SA as home. Which in turn upsets her that he doesn't understand. 

I understand.

I thought maybe after so many years that I would stop calling America home, but I haven't yet. I call England my home too, two homes are better then one they always say. 

Well, I'm sure someone has said that somewhere? And if they haven't then I have!

I am looking forward to being home, but I still have life to live before then so I've not packed my bags just yet!

There will be a lot of visiting, but a lot of down time as I am going for 5 weeks! I will be posting a few posts before I go and hopefully be posting while I'm there, sharing with all of you what I'm getting up too! 

In the meantime I have a few classic American desserts and bakes to share with you among other things. 

I decided I wanted to make Strawberry Shortcake when I found myself smelling strawberries at the store with my oldest little person. While I was smelling freshly baked shortcake and sweet whipped cream she was smelling strawberries and nothing else.  

I made sure we got two packages. I made Strawberry Shortcakes and her and her sister ate 400g worth of strawberries in one sitting. 

We limit their in take of strawberries so it doesn't become a serious problem in their adulthood. I'm lying we let them eat as many as we can afford! 

To me Strawberry Shortcake is a classic dessert and perfect way to highlight fresh strawberries. Plus it gave me an excuse to use my Wilton pan I have only used one other time. This is some seriously good dessert! 



Strawberry Shortcakes: 

strawberries
400g strawberries
50g sugar

Mix the sliced strawberries with the sugar in a bowl and cover and leaver until ready to use. We want the strawberries to be nice and juicy! 


shortcake
300g plain flour
100g sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
114g butter, chilled
140ml milk
1 large egg

Heat the oven to 190C grease the dessert shell tin by Wilton or a 8inch/20cm round pan, with a cake release spray and lightly dust with flour, tap out excess flour.
Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together before adding the butter in cubes. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like course crumbs. If you have a pastry blender tool thing then use that.
Fold in the milk and egg until just combined. 
Use heaped table spoons to fill the indents in the dessert shell tin and gently press down and smooth with the back of the spoon. Or spoon into the cake pan and smooth down as much as possible. The batter is a little sticky. 
Bake for 25-30 minutes if using the dessert shell, but 30-35 minutes if in the cake pan. The skewer test should be used to make sure it's cooked all the way through. Cool in the tin/pan for at least 10 minutes before turn out on a plate. 


to serve
150ml whipping cream
1 tsp caster sugar

Whip the cream and sugar together until it holds it's shape. Then I drizzle some of the strawberry juice on the cake(s) to soak in a little before adding strawberries, whipped cream to taste! 
Then eat! Ice cream would also be great in these! 


notes: My post on home being where the heart is! The only other time I used this pan was for this post. Recipe roughly adapted from a Betty Crocker cookbook. 

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