It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!

Perhaps I am a little bit of a Scrooge, but I find Christmas time to be madness. It takes a lot of work not to get sucked into “The Madness”! Every year numerous media outlets tell us what a perfect Christmas should be or look like. So, many people buy into this commercialism and I’m not exempt from it! I put up a tree, shop for presents, and cook/bake like a mad person (hence “the madness”)! The trick, in my opinion, to making this the most wonderful time of year is not getting sucked in too far and having a Christmas within your means.

Now that I am off my pedestal I can share with you what I baked this week! :0)

Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins
Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Super moist and delicious. The Espresso isn't really noticeable, but it does add a different dimension then other banana muffins/loafs I've made!

Tiger Rolls
Bake! By Nick Malgieri

I've experimented a little bit with bread here and there, but this is the first time I’m really pleased with the outcome. Except for one little niggle the bread was a little pale, but they were perfectly done. Well, and the part that makes it a tiger roll probably could use a little work. So maybe not really pleased, but definitely a better result then some of my past experiences.

Apple Pie
sugar, sugar: every recipe has a story by Kimberly “Momma” Reiner & Jenna Sanz-Agero

Pies are new to me really. Making my first pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and now my first apple!! I think the filling was a bit runny and the pie crust was a bit of a disaster, but both were faults of mine. I thought in all the madness that I would get my apple filling ready ahead of time. So, the apples sat in there sugar mixture and it was very liquidy. Then the crust I didn't want to add too much water and therefore added too little. The crust would not stay together! Wouldn't win a beauty contest, but it was yummy!

Macadamia and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-your-mouth cookies by Alice Medrich
I made these for my brother-in-law who happens to have his birthday on Christmas day. While he was here for Thanksgiving he mentioned that he liked the idea of macadamia nuts and white chocolate. There are tons of recipes floating a round, but I referred to my trusty cookie book by Alice Medich!! He was happy with them!

Hope everyone has had a great Christmas and an even better New Year!! 
Bring on 2013!!

Flatplanet Brownies!! {book re-review}

Thanksgiving was a big hit this year because of Leon: Family & Friends (book 4) by Kay Plunkett-Hogge & John Vincent; since I already raved about it in that post I will try to keep it to a minimum here!

Leon’s fourth book is a great addition to any cookbook collection, not only does it have great savory recipes (as seen on my Thanksgiving table), but plenty for those with a sweet tooth as well!

For Instance:
  • Miss Morton’s Lemon Cake
  • Susanna Mattana’s Amaretti Macaroons
  • Honey & Rose Baklava
  • Momma’s Apple Pie
  • Anna Hansen’s Pumpkin & Miso Cheesecake
  • Spiced Cranberry & Apple Crumble
  • Cheat’s Chocolate Trifle
  • And
  • Many more… including these brownies called Flatplanet Brownies.
These brownies come from John Vincent’s little café that focuses on the good stuff (food) called … wait for it … Flatplanet. At Flatplanet they make a lot of wheat and gluten free cakes and apparently these are very popular! I can see why. Super gooey and chocolaty - what more could you ask for in a brownie??

All you need is 450g butter, chopped; 450g chocolate, chopped (min 50%); 400g caster sugar; 6 eggs; 300g ground almonds.

To make pre-heat your oven to 120C/250F/gas ½ Carefully melt the butter in a large saucepan and when almost melted add the chocolate. Keep stirring until completely smooth and then take off the heat and stir in sugar. In another bowl beat the eggs lightly then beat into the chocolate mixture. Add the ground almonds and mix with the balloon whisk, until there are no large pockets of almonds left. Grease and line a brownie pan (26 x 36cm) and pour mixture into pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes (70minutes) or until starting to crack on the surface. Allow them to cool for at least an hour. Mine needed longer. Then cut and enjoy!!

If you know someone who needs to learn to cook then this book is for him or her! It’ll be a subtle hint if they find it under the tree! Or if you know someone who already loves to cook and they don’t own a single Leon cookbook what a great way to introduce them to the wonders of Leon! 

I have never been to Flatplanet so can’t compare brownies.
Amazon UK or available in local stores

Pizza Sugar Cookies!!

My daughter turned 5 on Friday! I can't believe how fast it's gone! I know all parents say that. When I was pregnant I used to get annoyed by all the people who would tell me that it would go fast. Now I'm saying it myself, because it's so true.

To celebrate we let her have her first party. With her birthday so close to Christmas we tended to only have small family parties. People are so busy this time of year I didn't want to add one more thing others lists! First I wanted to throw her a My Little Pony Party or a Winter Princess Party, but most of her friends are boys and we were having it in the house. We are limited to space, so 5 of her friends were invited for a Pizza Party!!

I had all sorts of fantastical ideas of it being the best party ever with the kids making their own pizzas and having hand made aprons to take home as their party gift... I'm glad I chucked those ideas right out of my head!! In the end I bought pizzas and made these delicious vanilla cookies for them to take home in their party bags.
to make: use your favorite sugar cookie recipe!! I used Shauna Sever's Big, Soft Frosted Vanilla Sugar Cookies from her book Pure Vanilla. I wanted them to look like mini pizzas so, I dyed 1/3 of the frosting red. Spread that on first for the 'tomato sauce', then the white on top of that for 'cheese' then used different sprinkles for the 'toppings'!
I asked the kids if they thought they looked like mini pizzas, all of them, but one polite little girl, said no! Ah well, they were still delicious!! Now I have about 7 weeks to decide what to make for the littlest ones birthday! They really do grow up fast!!

note to self: 4/5 year-old's aren't really all that interested in games they were way more happier just playing then when I was trying to coax them into Pizza Bingo or Pizza Darts and Hot Tomato. note to other parents: I hate party bags. They end up in the trash the second they leave your party. Pure Vanilla is available on Amazon UK or US. My views on the book and the Lemon Dream Bars I made from it.

Forever Nigella #21 - Christmas Rocky Road!!

I do love Nigella and have seen the Forever Nigella banner before, but never really looked into it. When Laura, from the blog Laura Loves Cakes, said she was hosting this months Forever Nigella I knew I was going to tag along! That and I always reach for my Nigella books this time of year. Her recipes are indulgent and comforting exactly what you need in the winter!

I choose Christmas Rocky Road off of Nigella’s website and it says it can also be found in Nigella Christmas. I made a few changes to suit what was already in my cupboard - I used 200g for both dark and milk chocolate where the original recipe it’s split 250 dark/150 milk. Also my glace cherries were not red, just plain. I do realize that by using plain glace cherries it kind of misses the point. You would choose red ones because red is one of the colors associated with Christmas and they would stand out once the bars were all cut up! I also choose to opt out of edible glitter, even though I have some. It’s not my favorite thing, edible glitter. I don’t really have a reason - I just don’t like it. 

I wrapped mine up in a festive holiday bag and gave it to our dentist office. :0) Might be a weird gift to people who make a living out of keeping teeth clean, but my eldest has a couple cavities (I know, I know!) and they have taken great care of her there. I just wanted them to know they are appreciated! That doesn't mean I didn't try the end pieces when cutting it up! It was gorgeous! I love the amaretti biscuits in there! Think I might need to make another batch sooner rather then later! And I'm not sure I will share!! Enjoy!! 

Christmas Rocky Road:

200g dark chocolate
200g milk chocolate
175g butter, soft
4 tbsp golden syrup
200g amaretti biscuits, smashed
200g brazil nuts, shelled and bashed
150g glace cherries, red
125g mini marshmallows, save the leftovers for hot chocolate
1 tbsp icing sugar
sprinkling of edible glitter, optional

  1. Break up both the dark and milk chocolate, then with the butter and golden syrup, melt in a heavy-based pan over a gentle heat. Once melted take off the heat.
  2. Add smashed amaretti biscuits, bashed brazil nuts, glace cherries (I used regular ones as that’s what was in my cupboard), and mini marshmallows to the melted chocolate and carefully coat.
  3. Pour the mixture into any tray or tin you have - It all depends on how fat or thin you want them. I used my 9x9 silicone pan and Nigella uses a 236mm x 296mm foil tin. On another note if you don’t use silicone or a foil tray line your tin with clingfilm or foil for easy release - Smooth as best you can.
  4. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  5. Remove the block of Rocky Road from the tin and sprinkle with the icing sugar and edible glitter if using.
  6. Cut into any size squares you want! Visit the link below to Nigella’s site for how to make about 24 even squares and for make-ahead tips! :0) 
I used a little more then 1 tbsp icing sugar....hahaha!
Thank you to Laura @lauralovescakes for hosting find her site here!
Thank you to Maison Cupcake founder of Forever Nigella blog hop!
Nigella’s official site 
Nigella Christmas: Amazon UK, other sources

Maltesers Chocolate Mini Donut!! [baked]

I adapted this recipe as best I could for a UK audience. It is still listed in cups, but really sets of measuring cups are easy to come by. I did change products where needed, ex: plain flour = all purpose flour, icing sugar = powdered sugar and so on.

Only last week I shared my first thoughts on this book and said how I wasn't sure what to make first! Well, these came first not because of choice but because I had everything already in my cupboard! It was an easy way to decide!

They were easy to make, but they do take time. My mini doughnut pan holds twenty. So, to fill them up, wait the 7-9 minutes, cool down enough to take out of the pan and repeat, then ice each donut by dipping. I don’t mean to put you off because if you have a rhythm you won’t notice the time! It would take more or less the same amount of time if using an electric donut maker. It usually holds 5-6 donuts, but only takes 3-4 minutes.

They were good and we all ate them up right away! Enjoy! 

Maltesers Malted Chocolate Mini Donut 
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • ¼ cup chocolate malted-milk powder (I just used Horlicks)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C and grease donut pan. Sift together flour, malted-milk, cocoa, and baking powder, and salt. Whisk together the egg and sugar. Then add in the milk, oil, sour cream, and vanilla until combined. Gently stir in the flour mixture, stirring so there are no lumps. Fill each donut indentation ¾ full. Bake for 7-9 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to rack and let cool. Place paper towels or parchment paper underneath for easy clean up.

for icing:
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 55g bittersweet chocolate, chopped or buttons/chips
  • 1 cup icing sugar, sifted
Melt the butter in a saucepan then add milk, golden syrup, and chocolate stir slowly until completely melted. Take off the heat and whisk in sifted (it’ll be lumpy if you don’t sift it) icing sugar. Immediately dip the top of each donut into the icing and transfer back to the wire rack.
to finish:
  • 1 or 2 bag of Maltesers, crushed or cut in half
Sprinkle on top of iced donuts. Let set for 10 minutes before eating (if you can wait that long). Donuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days, but are best when eaten fresh!

This recipe, adapted for UK bakers, is from Mini Donuts: 100 Bite-Sized Donut Recipes to Sweeten Your “Hole” Day by Jessica Segarra Creator of The Novice Chef Blog (Maltesers are Whoppers; Whoppers are Maltesers)

My "review"; The Novice Chef; Amazon UK, Amazon US, I bought my mini doughnut pan from Lakeland's. You can easily use an electric donut maker just follow the manufacture’s instructions.

Figgy Pudding Cupcakes!!

Tis the season to be reading and baking! I love books and baking! Unfortunately I haven’t been able to keep up with Kelly (American Cupcake in London) and her Cupcake Book Blog as much as I would have liked, but since I loved Meet Me at The Cupcake Café I knew I would be reading this title. Might as well bake from it and join in! Right?

I’m always a bit weary with sequels and series, but I was definitely excited to find out what happened next with Issy and her café! 

Issy is our main character in the first book she follows her dreams and opens The Cupcake Café. In the second book we see her face a tough decision- a decision I myself once had to make.

I really enjoyed Christmas at the Cupcake Café and would recommend it to fellow readers and/or bakers! I only re-read books I really enjoyed or related too. I think with these (2) books it was a bit of both. Even though I have no desire to own a café, I do enjoy sharing the love I put into my baking with friends and family.I get a feeling that Jenny Colgan hasn't finished with these characters and if she decides to write another one I will be first in line to get a copy.

Figgy Pudding Cupcakes

100g unsalted butter
100g treacle
50g sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp cardamom
½ tsp ground cloves
250g all-purpose flour
25g unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
100ml milk
1 tsp brandy
1 tsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 170C/gas mark 3 and butter cupcake tin
Combine dry ingredients, sift, and set aside
Cream butter, treacle, and sugar until fluffy
Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add vanilla and brandy.
Bake for 20-22 minutes. Ice if you want with brandy butter icing.
Or do what I did and just mix brandy with icing sugar for a nice kick!

from Christmas at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan 
made for Cupcake Book Club hosted by American Cupcake in London

I have always wondered what “figgy pudding” was in We Wish You a Merry Christmas:

Now! bring us some figgy pudding (x3)
and bring some out here. (or, and bring it us here)
For we all like figgy pudding (x3)
so bring some out here.
And we won't go until we've got some (x3)
so bring some out here. 
After trying these cupcakes I would change the lyrics to “figgy pudding cupcakes”! Realizing that figgy pudding is basically a traditional Christmas Pudding, after a Google search, I wish I had decorated them a little different. Ah well! They were super yummy and the spices shout out warmth and comfort! I can’t wait to see what other inspired bakes come from other readers! 

Clotted Cream Fudge! What I made the first time I joined in with the Cupcake Book Club! 

Lemon-Vanilla Dream Bars!!

So, I've probably mentioned on here before that Mr. Knightley is allergic to citrus. I therefore don’t usually use lemon/orange/lime/grapefruit and so on in my baking. Like in Mary Berry’s Very Best Chocolate Orange Cake- it was just a chocolate cake. It was for Mr. Knightley's office and I couldn't have him going in there and not eating any of the cake I made!! They would have thought it poisoned or worse horrible tasting…

Anyhow a few of my girl-friends and I have nights in where we all provide something for the evening. I always volunteer for dessert. Did I even need to tell you that? I mean come on, but I also use this as an opportunity to make things Mr. Knightly can’t or won’t (he is a picky eater) eat.

I love vanilla and lemon bars/tarts and key lime pies etc… so when I came across this less messy version of a lemon bar in Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever it had to be made!  Everyone loved it! A soft vanilla blondie type base with smooth lemon curd swirled through the top. Who could ask for more?

Lemon-Vanilla Dream Bars

10 ounces (280g) white chocolate
6 tbsp (about 84g), unsalted butter, cubed
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temp
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp vanilla bean paste       
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
½ store-bought lemon curd

Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C, line 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper with some hanging over for easy removal Melt 8 oz (225g) and butter in your preferred method, once melted stir in sugar and salt. Whisk in eggs one at a time and then whisk in both vanillas. Gently fold in flour using a spatula; when a few streaks of flour are left fold in the rest of the chocolate (2 oz./55g) and scrape batter into prepared pan. In 5-6 equal portions place the lemon curd on top. With a butter knife swirl curd into batter with a figure 8 motion. Bake for 25-28 minutes until toothpick comes out clean not dry. Let them cool completely before removing from the tin. When they are cooled just grab the overhanging parchment paper and cut into 12 bars or you know 6 depending on who you're serving! 

notes: Mary Berry’s Very Best Chocolate Orange Cake, Mr Knightley (Jane Austen's Emma) is my husband (not really my husband as he's a fictional character, but what I call my husband on this blog. It's fitting trust me.), I used Lindt Excellence White Chocolate A Touch of Vanilla for added vanilla flavor and I used my brownie pan not an 8x8 (would have been better with a thicker base, but really not complaining), I am sleepy, my thoughts on the book, buy the book UK or US, check out Shauna Sever’s website, and Quality Street’s are hands down way better then Roses, Hero’s, or Celebrations…fact.