Chocolate and Peppermint Cupcakes

I have mentioned in a few previous blog posts that my friend Lulu's mum Pixie has been staying in London for a few months now, however her time here has sadly come to and end and she is flying back to Australia on Monday.. *sniff*

I will be very sad to see her go as in the time that she has been here we have had some great times together. She has shared many stories and now I have a few stories to tell of my time with Pixie and I've been very grateful to get to know one of my good friends mums so well.

Anyway last night I joined Lulu and Pixie on the boat (did I mention Lulu lives on a boat on the Thames.... amaze right?) for dinner and of course I baked some treats to take along with me to share and as I learnt from the early beginning.... she'll eat pretty much anything - except banana's.

The cupcakes were just something I wanted to try as chocolate and peppermint has been a flavour I have loved since I was a wee'un. I made a batch of my vanilla cupcake & vanilla butter cream recipes and added a teaspoon of peppermint essence to both, oh and of course some food colouring. I then made a batch of chocolate cupcakes with the infamous chocolate icing and swirled the two together.

I am my own worse critic and I still think they could be better as the chocolate cake seemed a little dry, but hey there were no complaints.

And to Pixie, I am very sad to see you go as the time I have spent with you has been amazing and I can totally understand now where that daugther of yours gets her sparkle.. I am very lucky to have her as one of my best friends and I thank you for that.

Please come back and visit soon, but I won't say goodbye, just see you soon xx

Much Love and Happy Baking x

Clementine (Mandarin) & Polenta Biscuits - Recipe 13 of the Women's Weekly Challenge

Happy National Baking week everyone! As much as I love that its baking week in the UK, I feel like its been a bit swamped but National Chocolate Week, National Cheese Week, National Cupcake week.. and the list goes on. However I would have really liked to have made it down to the Chocolate Week event they had going on at Vinopolis... now that looked amaze.

Anyway back to the baking and since I baked this during National Chocolate week, then next week except a bunch of chocolate posts... I made my own baking weeks! Now a few posts back I mentioned that I've come across a few ingredients in this books that are sometimes a bit difficult to come by in the UK. This one another one of those, and it just happened to be the main ingredient - Mandarin.

Whilst I was told they were probably available in the country, I wasn't going to go tracking all over London just to find some and so I substituted with some Clementines and they did the job. The recipe also include mandarin juice. I'm still not 100% sure what mandarin juice is, some of my more recent Aussie friends who have come over advised me that this was some for of cordial, so instead I just blitzed some of the clementines and then strained the juice... actually that was LK's idea - so I won't take the credit on that.

I was a little worried when they came out that they were undercooked as I think by nature the dough is meant to be a slightly pale. The smell however definitely made them inviting and I had a number of people who came and told me how much they did actually enjoy them. A few suggested that they should make an appearance in the tea room again soon though I have about another 50 - 60 recipes to get through just in this book alone so maybe next year.

Happy Baking x

Vanilla & Mocha Twists - Recipe 12 of the Women's Weekly Challenge

As I frequently have to do the peak hour train journey out to The Readings I thought I could actually use this time to catch up on blog entries. However as its peak hour I always end up standing either between seats annoying people knocking them about with my backpack or squished in-between carriages. I have found my spot now as a frequent* traveler in the section between first class carriages were I can sit on the ground with my bag yet without a first class ticket - I feel slight more privileged to be stuck there... the small things in life.
*Pete might disagree

Last week I managed to get through two more recipes in my baking challenge, however in the wrong order. On Tuesday I wanted to do the mandarin & polenta biscuits however I struggled to find any polenta and even sending LK to the shops on her way home too we failed to find any. When I got home I turned to the next recipe and thankfully I had all the ingredients (except two teaspoons of instant coffee - thanks Tom) and so I got baking on the next recipe.. Vanilla & Mocha Twists.

I thought these looked like they were going to be quite difficult as the whole twist thing to me looked quite delicate. However it was surprisingly easy, however in this picture below, I had actually measure out the dough to 40cm like the recipe advised, but do you think that I could twist the whole thing in one go...

I'm not sure what they do in that kitchen, but it wasn't working for me. I did manage to work out my own way and I was actually surprised at the conformity I got throughout the batch.

Oh and they tasted pretty amaze too...

Happy Baking x

Ginger & Caramel Apple Puddings - The Pink Whisk Challenge

It tis the season to eat apples.. which is awesome, as I generally eat one a day as this is how I was brought up. And then there is that whole 'eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away' thing, which doesnt work when you fall on your arse in nightclub, who know's maybe If I had an apple on me that night... hmm. Hindsight is a wonderfull thing.

This blog entry has a bit of a purporse to it, rather than my general ramblings. One of the blogs I follow The Pink Whisk has a compitition this month to bake with apple, namly Pink Lady apples and on Saturday night we were having a girls night in and so I had the perfect occassion to try out a recipe.
The Pink Whisk

my little helper - Lulu

We threw around a few ideas, but I chose a recipe from BBC Good Food - Ginger & Caramel Apple Puddings. They were meant to be done in individual ramakins except that I didn't have any, however I had treated myself to a lovely new dish earlier that day and it worked perfectly.

My housemate and I had a good system, she made the dinner and I was left to do the pudding so more relaxing time for both of us (though I think she drew the short straw on that deal).

Her cassoulet was a great homely autumn dinner and tasted amazing. The flavours were even more amazing when we had the leftovers a few days later. The pudding recipe was very simple and took no time at all to make and even less time to be devoured.

Happy Autumn Everyone & Happy Baking x

Malted Milk Biscuits - Recipe 11 of the Women's Weekly Challenge

I’m finally up to date with my Women’s Weekly Biscuit Challenge.. yey!!! If you haven’t been following my blog for the last few weeks, then I’ll fill you in with what I’m on about. Basically in the past when I get orders for baked goods from family, friends, workmates, they are always for cupcakes. Now whilst I love those pretty little things, they are not a challenge and my baking skills are not expanding in a way I would hope. Another reason was that I purchased a Women’s Weekly Biscuits &  Macaroon’s book when I was in home in Australia last year and every time I looked in the book I wanted to bake everything…. So I made it a challenge to do just that.

After the disappointment in flavour from the last recipe, I was looking forward to some flavour coming through in this recipe as malt is one of my favourite flavours. My first experience with malt was when I started my job at Donut King and on the menu was vanilla malted milkshakes… I never though anything would be better than a chocolate milkshake until I had this.

Any who enough about the good old days when I didn’t know how many calories a full fat milkshake with ice-cream had in it, now I know that not even 20 minutes on the cross trainer will burn off that bad boy. As this is an Australian recipe sometimes I’ve come across some ingredients that are only found in Australia and/or I don’t know what the equivalent is in England. This recipe had two of those. Firstly I didn’t know what the equivalent of malted milk powder is and also the recipe was actually meant to be cut in the shape of flowers with a freckle as the middle.

This was a one off - just for me!

For those non-Australian readers… freckles are as follows…

…I think they are called Jazzy’s in the UK, but who knows (email me if you do). I eventually found Horlicks for the malted milk powder and some chocolate buttons which were my decorations – not nearly as exciting, but I do happen to have a cupboard full of 100’s and 1000’s so I improvised with the overall look.

I am very happy with the taste of these and the malt flavour comes though nicely, actually the best bit is when you open the tin and them smell comes wafting out…mmmm

Happy Baking x

Refrigerator Cookies - Recipe 10 of the Women's Weekly Challenge

This evening I am waiting for a friend who is coming into London to meet me in the City. It’s a long awaited catch up and while I’m waiting I thought I would do some blog catch up as doing any actual work beyond 5.30pm is just out of the question – at this time of the year anyway. Also this gives me time to just bake for the rest of the week… so many things to bake and so little time!!!!!

So recipe number 10 – refrigerator cookies, they sound boring and they most definitely are. I am currently still in the ‘plain’ section of the recipe book and these biscuits are definitely winning in that category. When I read the ingredient list for this recipe I was intrigued to find out that it only had 3 ingredients, butter, icing sugar and flour. The only other biscuit recipe that I knew of that had only 3 ingredients was my Nana'sShortbread recipe. So naturally I thought this recipe would have a similar taste and light texture... I was wrong.

The taste of the biscuits were okay, but they were just really dense, however went okay after being drowned in a lovely cup of earl grey tea. Though doesn’t any biscuit? I think I had high expectations probably because of the ingredients and the fact that even if you cook my Nana's shortbread slightly wrong it still tastes good… or even just eating the dough which was always my brother’s preference.

The recipe had some suggestions to add nuts as an alternative, but I might just save my ingredients next time and go with Nana Peg’s good old shortbread.

Happy Baking x

Apple and Blackberry Pie

First of all thanks to all who have read my blog over the last 18 months, its been a lot of fun and I'm learning a lot from the experience, not just the baking but writing as well. When I started the blog, it was more about the baking side, but I quickly realised I wanted to push myself to write as I've never really been very good at it. And I now know the times in which I enjoy writing the most is when I incorporate my personal side into my baking and write about the whole experience. And today blog entry is definitely about that and I thank you all again for reading! 

As some of you may or may not know last year I had a very unfortunate accident at night club in London. The night started off well, drinks and amazing foods at my friends place in Hackney followed by a trip to Camden for some much loved indie dance tunes. Unfortunately I got a little too excited when the DJ started playing Arcade Fire and headed down to the dance floor via the stage. I had done this many times before, however this time my feet didn't even hit the floor as a drink had been spilt and my arse landed straight on the floor. My only regret from the night is that I didn't have nearly enough alcohol to numb the instant pain and even to this day I hate recalling the fall in my mind.

The next few days were okay and a month or so on when I finally went to the doctor she said I just had a bad case coccydynia, which in laymen's terms is 'you fell on your arse and bruised it.' This is also what my spinal surgeon refers to a pain in the arse and he's a doctor, so that's definitely a medical term. However after a few months the back pain started and became a lot worse than initial pain in the arse and a year on its still a daily struggle to keep the pain away. The worst pain is from sitting down all day and so to come home and bake gets me up and moving... I'm not going to lie... I'd being doing it anyway.

So anyway a few weeks ago I had a day surgery to have some steroid needles injected into my back to hopefully help with the pain. Since it was best I rest at home all weekend, I used this excuse to cook the apple and blackberry pie I've wanted bake since I loaded up my freezer with 5 litres of blackberries.

I was lucky enough that as I was at the London Bridge hospital and have a loving boyfriend who went and picked up a delicious cut of lamb from Borough Market for our Sunday roast to which the pie was accompanying.

It was definitely a very chilled weekend with good pals and good pie.. nom
The base...from here you can't see the patch work
The blackberries and apples are mixed in sugar
and then put into the base
any pie needs a dinosaur for its finishing touches and
stegosaurus was very fitting if anyone
is unfortunate to actually have seen my back :/
its then sugared and pricked ready for the oven
fresh out of the oven...
...and then devoured as any pie should be

Happy Baking x

Raspberry & Chocolate Cookies - Recipe 9 of the Women's Weekly Challenge

Next up in my Women's Weekly challenge was Raspberry & Chocolate Cookies which unfortunately were a little under cooked and went completely gooey... if only I had some ice cream around to mush them into... mmm

Anyway, I had fun making these and the recipe started off in one of my favourite ways of starting off a recipe and that is creaming butter, sugar and eggs together. Not sure what is it about that combination but its just amazing how it all comes together to form a light creamy delicious mix.

Next went in the flours and cocoa to make my base.

And next the magic, dark chocolate and raspberries.

They looked all okay coming out of the oven, but I'm thinking my either wasn't hot enough or I needed to leave them in there a little longer or both.

Still good enough to eat and as I still have a freezer full of berries I'm going to give these another go, because they were so delish I figured they were worth the effort.

Happy Baking x