The Sweeter Side of Life {The Vintage Sweets Book review}

I have always enjoyed the sweeter side of life. However I haven’t always realized how easy it was to make sweets (candy) at home.

Angel Adoree has recently published her 3rd book The Vintage Sweet Book; it has everything you never needed to make your favorite childhood sweets at home.

The book is broken down into 3 sections.

Sweet Beginnings has the basics you need to make sweets and some of the easier things to make. Such as Sugared mice, Fruit jellies, and Jazzies.

Softball, frimball & hardball sweets will take a bit more work, but definitely worth the effort. With sweets like Marshmallows, Liquorices, and Wine gums.

Soft-crack & hard-crack sweets these types of sweets require you to get the sugar very hot, so do take care, but once you have mastered it you can make sweets like Rhubarb & custards, Cola Cubes, and Sherbet dip lollipops.

In between all the sweet recipes there are fun cocktails and craft projects that include how to make tags and gift boxes for the sweets!

I may not have grown up with the same sweets, but I have tried and fallen in love with most of them since I've arrived here!

I can’t wait to try making some of these for presents. I am starting with the Rum & raisin fudge for a Christmas fete. I will be making it tonight or tomorrow morning and will be sure to share with you how it turns out.

Then who knows what I’ll try next… the possibilities are endless. Plus once you get the basics down, you can create your own flavors of sweets!

This book is perfect for anyone who adores sweets, a vintage style, or making things at home! It comes in two sizes; the smaller version would be a great stocking stuffer! 

20.2 x 15.6 x 2cm

notes: The Vintage Sweets Book by Angel Adoree is available now and was given to me to review because I asked if I could have the privilege. I have Angel Adoree’s other books and love them! See my reviews for them here and here

The Perfect Ending {Wine & Dessert}

It’s only been a year since I started drinking wine and from the first day I immediately wished I was a wine expert!

Not only because I want to pair my food and desserts with wine, but so I can help others do it too! 

I mean it's all about helping each other right. I mean I wish someone told me how easy it was to make crème brulee! 

I should rephrase that, because I am sure someone has told me. I wish I had remembered that someone told me it was easy! 

It’s so totally simple you just make custard, bake it, chill it and sprinkle sugar on top and blowtorch it. The blowtorch is my favorite bit.

It used to be that whenever I went out for dinner I’d get crème brulee thinking it was all fancy and stuff, now I know better!

I am far from being a wine expert, but I am picking up some tips from Roberson Wine who sent me a bottle of Cyprès DdClimens 2006, Château Climens to pair with my crème brulee! Here is a quote from one of their wine experts:

"For a wine to work well with a dessert it needs to be about as sweet - otherwise one will overpower the other. But, more importantly, it needs to have enough acidity to make it feel refreshing and to cleanse the palate, otherwise the combination just becomes cloying. The best dessert wines, like those made in Sauternes (Bordeaux) by great producers such as Château Climens, have enough of everything - sweetness, richness, acidity and flavour to work perfectly with crème brûlée." ~ Anna Von Bertele, New World & French wines expert at Roberson Wine

I found the pairing to be spot on, the crème brulee was creamy and smooth and the wine was refreshing with subtle hints of apricot and almonds.

I used a classic crème brulee recipe. I was very please with my first attempt at this dessert that I used to think of as being a fancy treat. It’s still tastes amazing even though I don’t think of it as being fancy anymore.

Crème Brulee

150ml double cream
250ml milk
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped
3 egg yolks
40g golden caster sugar
Demerara sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 150C/gas2, Place the cream, milk, vanilla pod, and seeds in a pan and bring to a gentle simmer over a low heat. Beat together the egg yolks and sugar. Remove the vanilla pod from the simmering milk, then slowly pour the egg yolk mixture into the milk mixture until combined. Then pour the custard into 6 x 100ml ramekins or 3 x 200ml ramekin. Place in a deep roasting tray and fill the tray with warm water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35-45 minutes for 100ml ramekins and 50-60 minutes if you use the 200ml ramekins. Leave to cool at room temperature before chilling in the fridge before serving. When ready to serve sprinkle the Demerara sugar and torch with a kitchen blowtorch or you could caramelize the sugar under a hot grill. Leave the sugar to harden before cracking it open with your spoon! The second best part after the blowtorch!

notes: Thank you to Roberson Wine for the wine, it was lovely. All opinions are my own. There are many ways to use used vanilla pods and many ways to use up egg whites, so don’t throw them away!! Also when I go out I tend to gravitate towards Sticky Toffee Pudding… I bet that’s super easy to make too. If you have a recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding that you love please send it my way! Crème Brulee is the perfect excuse to buy yourself a kitchen blowtorch! This recipe was taken from Jamie Oliver magazine 2013 calendar

You Can Take the Girl out of America, but...

Recently I have been told that I occasionally sound British. More specifically strangers have said to me that they weren't sure about my accent as I said something that sounded American, but then I sounded British.

I’m not sure what that means. Nor am I really sure how I’m suppose to feel about that?

Maybe that’s why I get mistaken as Irish sometimes. An American accent with a British accent twang perhaps? American accents are actually closer related to the Irish/English then the English/English.

I don’t actually know if that is true, I was just told that by a fellow American Expat. She has been mistaken as Irish before too. One very nice Irish twitter friend I tweet occasionally told me she gets mistaken as American.

Crazy. I suppose I should have expected after 8+ years that I would pick up on the British ways of saying things. It’s not a bad thing, but I like sounding like an American. It’s a part of me, ya know?

I will get used to it, just like I had to get used to my last name when I married.

However just because the girl has been taken out of America does not mean the America has been taken out of the girl! Here are some Peanut Butter Thumbprint cookies filled with a raspberry jelly!

And yes I used cups!! You know what else? I use an American laptop because I can’t type on a British keyboard! You didn't need to know that random fact, but I felt it’s about time I confessed.

Don't be put off by the cups because these cookies are yummy! They are great as an after school snack or just because you like peanut butter and jelly!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumbprint Cookies

1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plain flour)
½ tsp baking soda (baking powder)
1 tsp flaky sea salt or ¾ tsp fine sea salt
8 tbsp (1 stick (114g)) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup golden granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup natural smooth peanut butter (stir well to blend the oil before measuring)

Mix the flour, baking soda, salt and then set aside. In another bowl mix the sugar and melted butter, before whisking in the egg, vanilla, and peanut butter. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined. Cover the cookie dough and refrigerate for an hour. Don’t worry if you need to leave it for longer, you can leave it over night if you must!

Preheat the oven to 325F/160C/gas3 and prepare two baking sheets. The recipe makes about 4-dozen cookies.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes, until lightly colored on top and underneath, one cookie will need to be sacrificed to check the bottom. Because the cookies are soft to the touch as they come out of the oven when you turn one over it will most likely crumble.

Which is okay as they firm up while they cool. Which is why when they come out of the oven you need to put the “thumbprint” in the cookies before they cool. I used the bottom of my silicone pastry brush to make a hole in the middle to hold the jelly a bit better. When making the “thumbprint” you need to be very gentle as the cookies are sensitive.

to finish

3-5 tbsp Jelly/Jam of any flavor 

Before serving fill the “thumbprints” with jelly! Then Enjoy!

notes: I did try to hunt down some Grape Jelly as is traditional in PB & J, however I didn't want to pay the extortionate shipping fees for one jar of jelly! Natural Peanut Butter & Co. comes in 340g(12oz) tubs that equals one cup. I bought all the ingredients for this recipe. When I say I can’t type on a British keyboard I mean I won’t. I get really frustrated without my American keyboard! O_o Recipe is slightly changed from Alice Medrich's recipe in Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-your-Mouth Cookies.

I made these for Treat Petite Baking Blogging Challenge hosted by The Baking Explorer (this month's host) and CakeyBoi! This month’s theme was America! Can’t wait to see what next month’s theme is! 

Blurred Lines (advertising & my blog)

Last week the ASA wrote a statement regarding ad rules and why bloggers should be aware of them. This is my personal response to that statement and how I feel it affects my blog and myself.

I have been writing my blog for a couple years now and only recently have been contacted by PR agencies and companies. 

Developing my blog into what I want it to be has taken time. I used to just write out recipes and show a few pictures without adding any thoughts or stories to my posts.  It’s changing as I grow in my baking abilities; my blog and I have come a long way.

When I was an art student at university/college it was in my art classes that I learned a process of creatively thinking out how I wanted my piece of art to be portrayed. It’s the same process that I use today when I am deciding what to bake/make next. 

First I decide what I want to make, then I research recipes and how others have made them. After choosing a recipe that is the easiest to adapt to my needs, I go shopping for the ingredients that I don’t already have. I do all of this before I make the recipe. It's a process and it takes time. 

So, when I get sent an ingredient to try out for exchange of a review, it’s not always an equal payment for what goes into what I do. Not only adding in the time, but ingredients. One free ingredient doesn't always make up for the other ingredients.

Sometimes the recipe doesn't always work out the first time. I have made donuts twice now and neither time has it turned out how I wanted, so hopefully third times a charm. I wanted to make them to fill with a jam that was sent to me to bake with. 

I am not trying to sound like I’m complaining, as I have a choice, I could say no. 

When it’s just a simple exchange of product for review it gives me more freedom and less pressure to do what I want with the product. As a general rule I usually ask the questions of the company before I accept anything so that we are on the same page. I have to assume when it’s paid content you have less say in what it’s about.

I will say here and now I have never been paid for a positive review. Nor will I ever accept payment for a positive review. I will always state if something was provided for me. I will also not accept anything that is unrelated to my blog and that I wouldn't use myself. 

However I will accept payment for ads, advertorial or sponsored content, if that opportunity ever arrives. If I do receive that opportunity it will be stated clearly in the note section of all my posts. 

I further want to elaborate that from here on out I will clearly state if I bought something myself so there is no confusion or question in the matter. However if the post is older then this one, if it is not stated that it was sent to me, than I purchased it myself. 

I have stated most of this in my contact/policy tab above. I just want to write it here again as it’s recently being talked about.  

Overall, I write my blog as a type of journal for myself. It is a bonus that I have lovely readers who comment and share what I do. It’s also a bonus to occasionally receive an opportunity to try products, but it’s not why I write my blog. Baking is my current form of art and blogging is my way of sharing it.

notes: ASA stance on advertising and blogs. My blog contact/policy tab. Hopefully jam filled donuts will be up on the blog soon! The pictures of these donuts were edible, but were too brown and crunchy to fill with the jam. Which is what happened to my first batch, I took pictures, but cannot find them anywhere! I think I need to reconsider what oil I'm using and frying time! The recipe for these were adapted from the current issue of the Jamie (Oliver's) Magazine. 

I like Big Bundts! {Strawberry & Champagne Bundt}

It’s National Bundt Day!!

Bundt cakes are the lazy decorators (ahem… me) dream. They are already gorgeous to look at, dust with a little icing sugar or a drizzle over a glaze and you have a masterpiece!

They are also great cakes for those who don’t like frosting/icing. A bundt cake could be frosted or iced, but it really doesn't need it.

They also can be a pain to get out of the tin.... The jam I used in this recipe was too close to the top and it made the cake stick to the top of the pan. That or the preserve added too much moisture to the cake.

It's also possible that I happened to turn off the new oven while setting the time and walked off and didn't realize until half way through that is what I did! O_o

Recently nothing I make turns out exactly how I'd like it too. Not sure what's going on? Here's how I made this cake. It was edible and very tasty, just doesn't look too good.

This is the first time I have ever had an issue getting my cake out of this pan and I've used it on various occasions! I didn't use the champagne glaze as the cake was a mess and I didn't want to waste the champagne, but I gave you what I would have done had it turned out right. I also re-wrote what I would do differently next time.

Strawberry & Champagne Bundt Cake

200g unsalted butter
500g golden caster sugar
60ml sunflower oil
4 large eggs
350g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
250ml full-fat strawberry yogurt
150-200g strawberries, hulled and chopped
½ jar of Mackays Strawberry and Champagne preserve

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan160C/gas4. Prepare your Bundt, I lightly grease it with sunflower oil and leave it tipped upside down to let the oil run down the sides, before adding the batter I lightly flour it and tap out the excess flour.

Cream the butter, sugar, and oil together until light and fluffy. Lightly beat the eggs together in a jug and add the eggs gradually (fully mix before adding more egg) Sift the flour and baking powder together before adding half with the batter, fold it in and add half of the yogurt and repeat until just combined and smooth. Fold in the chopped strawberries.

Spoon a third of the batter into the bottom of the bundt, swirl in 2-3 tablespoons of the preserve, and repeat once before top with remaining batter. Bake for an hour; use the skewer test to ensure it’s cooked through. Ovens vary so check it just before the hour is up and add more time if needed.

Spoon in half of the batter then swirl in 4-5 tablespoons of the preserve and then top with the rest of the batter.

Champagne Glaze

200-250g of icing sugar
2-3 tablespoons of champagne

Mix the icing sugar and champagne together, add more or less of either depending how thick or runny you want your glaze.

Serve with a glass of champagne! Is also great with cream or whipped cream and more preserve!

Bundt cakes are usually spiced pound cakes and make a great alternative to a Christmas cake or pudding. They are also low maintenance and pretty (if you manage to get it out of the pan) they would make a great table piece!   

notes: Mackays Strawberry and Champagne Preserve was provided for me as part of there Christmas with Mackays campaign. National Bundt Day! I bought my Nordic Ware Bundt pan. For more bundts visit Mary theFood Librarian (I like Big Bundts), she’s awesome she makes a bundt everyday in the month of November! Also if you made a bundt for National Bundt Day enter it on her site!  

How to use up Leftover Candy {Post Halloween Post}

This post is geared towards leftover Halloween candy, but could refer to any candy you have laying around!

I have seen a lot of brownies and cupcake recipes that show you how to use up leftover candy. Both are great bases to do so!

Yet, my husband’s favorite thing I make is the easiest no bake thing in the world to make: Rocky Road! I mean really I make cakes and cookies and he asks for Rocky Road!

All Rocky Road is is melted down chocolate filled with various treats, like marshmallows, dried fruits, and nuts. Seriously it’s not difficult at all, but everyone loves it!

The girls did pretty well with Trick or Treating this year, plus the candy we didn't give out gave us a lot of “leftover” candy.

Even though I am a mom who enjoys the sweeter things in life, I am also a mean mom who allows only one piece of candy after lunch and/or dinner. Which also depends on their behavior.

Anyway it’s taking ages to get through their buckets, so I decided to help them along by stealing some of the chocolate bars to use in this Rocky Road.

Leftover Rocky Road

800g milk chocolate, melted
600g, give or take of leftover candy and other things in your cupboard
Such as: Maltesers, chocolate bars, Curly Wurlys, Oreos, cookies, marshmallows, cereal, dried fruit

Melt the chocolate in your preferred method. Let it cool slightly because if your leftover candy is mostly chocolate it will melt it right away and some of it you want to keep its shape.
Place all the leftover treats in a bowl and pour in the melted chocolate. Fold until everything is covered in chocolate.
Spoon/pour into a prepared tin, I used my silicone 9x9 square pan as it gives it a nice thickness and it’s super easy to get out, no greasing or lining!
Once it’s cool place in refrigerator. Once set take it out of fridge for a few minutes, before cutting. Enjoy! 

notes: Sainsbury’s milk chocolate bars were perfect for this as they come in 400g bars, this recipe can be adjusted to your taste! If you’re making it as a gift for someone you can adjust it to his or her favorite flavors! Try not to go out and buy stuff to make this, just use what you have in your cupboards! Also note that going to Sainsbury’s the day after Halloween will allow you to pick up candy at a very discounted price! Yum! 

Colorful Cakes! {Clandestine Cake Club}

I really enjoyed this theme! The colors were listed and then after the event was full, Louise, our organizer listed us in alphabetical order next to the already listed colors! Just to add a little bit of mystery and to be a bit more creative! 

I was listed next to black! I automatically was like I'm doing a Black Velvet Cake! But really I wish I had thought about it a bit more. I could have done a Black Forest cake or a Blackout Cake... or something like that. However I was still happy with my completely black cake, well except for the orange sprinkles on top!

The frosting was a bit too smooth as the more black coloring I added the smoother it got, but the more white icing sugar I added it'd get lighter... eventually I just opted for it to be smooth. Therefore it slide everywhere. Ah well! 

Now for everyone else's cakes!! 

(Going left to right top to bottom)

Katy had purple and she made a Purple Ombre Cake which is an almond cake, with passion fruit puree between the layers, topped with a white chocolate buttercream! Yum! The passion fruit puree was very yummy in between the delicious cake layers! And look at those roses! Amazing! (The small little picture on top was the inside) 

Siobhan was given orange and she made a Chocolate Orange Cake with white chocolate ganache and orange zest to decorate! The chocolate layers were moist and really tasty, mixed with the orange it was a gorgeous cake! 

Clare had red and went with a classic Red Velvet Cake. You can't go wrong with red velvet! It was very tasty with the classic cream cheese frosting! 

Then I had black and made a Black Velvet Cake.

Louise, our organizer, had brown, and she made a Brown Butter Cake, with Frangelico frosting and homemade Hazelnut Brittle. We agreed the frosting was a little sweet, she wasn't able to add the toasted hazelnuts to it because she burnt them... oops! However the cake was good and I loved the brittle! 

Jen, fellow blogger at Blue Kitchen Bakes, was given yellow! She decided to make a Lemon Swiss Roll. I do like a good lemon cake! She added a lemon buttercream frosting to spruce it up a bit, it was a good move. The whole cake was moist and zesty! We had a lot of sweet, so it was a nice change in the cake eating of the night! 

Becki, a new comer, had the color pink! She made us a Raspberry Neapolitan Cake (the picture next to it has an inside look). The cake was gorgeous! In looks as well as taste! If she makes cakes this good I can't wait to see her at the next meet up! 

Last but not least we had Fi & Clara's After Eight cake, chocolate and mint (also a sneaky look at the inside in the bottom middle picture) representing the color green! It was definitely minty, but not like the fake pepperminty flavor, it had a nice proper mint flavor and I really enjoyed it! 

My plate after trying all the cakes. I never finish them all, but I do try them! 

Hopefully we'll fit in one more meet-up before the year ends! I really enjoy our group, it's always a nice night out! 

notes: Check out the official Clandestine Cake Club website to find a group near you! And I got a little frosting on the lens of my phone some of the pictures were a little blurry. It had nothing to do with the glass of wine on an almost empty stomach. As you can tell I'm loving my picture collages! And remember I am American I don't do the 'u' in color and flavor. O_o 

The Best of Bakeries in the Heart of London {guest post}

The city of London has a vibrant mosaic of cultures. Thanks to the esta propelled agility in travel laws today, people bring with them a plethora of fresh and innovative ideas and tastes for us to savor. When it comes to desserts, cakes are a no match. The city itself stands out in terms of the quality and uniqueness of the bakeries it has. Preparing a concise list of the best of the all that the city boasts of is indeed a daunting task. Here are the names which people adore for more than a single reason:

Wild and Wood, Bloomsburry: For those who seek a small break from their daily chores, the ambiance here is perfect. With wood carvings and antique decoration items the food is always ready to complement. It is renowned for its cronut across the country which is usually coupled with a coffee. The impeccable blend of butter and lemon-cream makes the cronut a symbol for the bakery. The presentation is beautiful and in unison with the antiques, done on a wooden slate.

Cocomaya, Paddington: This place is a delight for art lovers. The innovative minds behind the bakery food are always up for experiments and unique approaches to be tried. They have been aptly titled the Gucci of bakeries and every single food item on offer is going to make one's taste buds go restless. Chocolates are their forte and the finest cocoa is their secret ingredient, hence the name. The Silicon Lemon from them is an all time people's favorite.

E5 Bakerhouse: If there is a place which has the best sourdough on planet earth, it's this. They preserve the lineage in the competitive world today; preparing it from local ingredients and organic means, which are considered at the epitome of good hygiene, it is amongst the myriad of items on the menu. They have courses to pass on their secret recipe to the inquisitive. Being situated near to the fields, it is the perfect drop-point for the picnic bounds one to grab a loaf and the famous coffee to complement it.

Patisserie Belle Epoque: Their secret behind the perfect pastries remains undisclosed in the oven today. Adjectives like 'mouth-watering', 'divine' and 'mystical' adorn this bakery as testimonials from returning customers who have fallen in love with the pastries from this place. Cafe au lait along with a slice of tart are more than sufficient for a leisurely hour spent praising the place. Since its inception in 2002, the traditional French bread has never dropped off the popularity charts.

Ayers the bakers: This place defines variety when it comes to the best of breads in particular. The Breakfast platter is heavily sought throughout the week. If you are a cronut fan and running low on money, this is the place to be and relish the best on offer. The flaky pastry layers and the custard blends in the cronut is their signature.

Since the options are endless and the city is growing as a cultural pot, the establishment of
ESTA, further aids the tourists to travel and savor these delights. Visiting one would make you come back to the place is what the natives and tourists heartily opine.

Author's Bio: 
Amy Lawson has been writing contents on the web professionally since 2005. She has workedas a tech and business marketing copy writer on various topics. Before she is got into writing, she lectured as a professor on various business topics. She is currently researching on ESTA.

Every Meal Should be an Experience {at Handmade Burger Co.}

There is a burger craze going on in England at-the-moment! It seems to be wherever I look there is a new burger place popping up. So, what makes one place stand out from the rest?

The food and the atmosphere.

I recently visited Handmade Burger Co. at the Oracle in Reading and they had both! 

First the food:

All the burgers are homemade. I know I don’t really have to tell you that as it is the name of the place. However they really mean they are homemade. The meat is fresh that day no freezing and then slopping them on the grill whenever it is needed.

There is like a million different choices! I finally decided on the Mexican (beef) burger. It had salsa, guacamole, jalapenos, and my favorite part homemade tortilla chips! All on a brioche bun! The brioche bun added sweetness to the spicy of the burger.

My date and friend, Kirsty, decided on Jimmy’s Farm Beef Cheese & Bacon burger. Which was made from a rare-breed, free-range beef. It definitely had a different taste and was moist and delicious! The caramelized red onion relish was super tasty!

Then we decided share a side of chips and coleslaw. Both were great accompaniments to our burgers. The chips were crisp and fluffy and I loved the Cajun Mayo dip. Our other side the coleslaw was the perfect amount of creaminess to crunchiness.

Then drinks there are a variety of beers, ciders, and wines, sodas, and shakes and malts. I had to have a handmade peanut butter shake. Yummy. Kirsty choose a Peroni as she says you can’t have a burger without a beer!

For dessert there is a selective of sundaes. I choose the brownie and waffle and Kirsty choose the banoffee both were delicious!

Now for the atmosphere:

The décor is simple, yet stylish and relaxing. The staff were lovely! They were talkative and informative. All questions we had were answered and when I asked for no onions, I was I could have my burger however I wanted! 

Once you decide on what you want you pay at the counter (like at Nando’s) and then when your order is ready it is brought to your table. I forgot to order a brioche bun with my burger. Oops! When we asked a member of staff if it was too late to correct it we were told it was not a problem and I received my brioche bun! 

Be careful when asked if you want dessert, because even if you say no they may convince you otherwise! We didn't think we could fit another bit in and we managed a good quarter of a sundae each!

Overall we had great food and a great afternoon! I think every meal should be an experience and at Handmade Burger it is!

notes: I was invited to visit Handmade Burger Co. – official website (for locations, menu, & much more), Twitter, Facebook by the Handmade Burger team.
It's worth following them on their social media sites, sometimes they run some really good promos!! The Oracle in Reading, Berkshire and Jimmy's Farm
The handmade tortilla chips on my burger were so good that I would have asked for a bowl all on their own if I thought I could get away with it! Note that the side dishes are actually quite big and your burger will be filling so sharing sides would be a great way to go!

Apple Bake Linky Post!

I love apple bakes!
I am sharing with you some of my favorites I have made in the past!
I would love to see what you have made please link up below!

Then there are the things I have made this week with Apples!