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Valentines Cupcakes

Its Valentines Day! Admittedly not one of my favourite holidays but any day that encourages more love is pretty good in my books. Sweets are traditional for Valentines day and who doesn’t want to spread the love with delicious treats? For Valentines I wanted a sweet cupcake with some traditional pink colouring so I went with a white chocolate cupcake with strawberry buttercream. This cupcake is moist and buttery with a smooth clean chocolate flavour and the strawberry buttercream is sweet and fluffy (plus a pretty pink without any artificial colourings!)

White chocolate and Strawberry

White chocolate and Strawberry

White Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 1 1/2 cups pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ounces white chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 325’F. Line a cupcake pan, I recommend using liners on the small side because these cupcakes do shrink as the cool and may pull away from the liners. I used Valentines ones with hearts!
  2. Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light & fluffy, usually takes a couple of minutes!
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time and then stir in the chocolate and vanilla, mixing well. 
  5. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the milk. Mix well after each addition. Divide batter evenly into prepared cupcake pan (fill slightly more than usual).
  6. Bake 20-22 minutes or until cupcakes spring back.
Strawberry Buttercream
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 6-8 strawberries pureed till smooth
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 lb icing sugar (as needed)
  1. Cream butter until very soft, add strawberries and vanilla and beat in.
  2. Slowly add icing sugar about a cup at a time until the consistency and taste seem right.
  3. Turn up the mixer and beat for a couple of minutes until fluffy.

 

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Coconut Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Coconut Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Coconut Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Coconut is so summery and tropical. I find even when its the dark of winter one of these cupcakes can cheer almost anyone. I made these for a friend’s birthday as coconut is her favourite and I can rarely make them without her requiring one for herself! I love this combination of coconut and white chocolate – almost like a bounty bar! If the buttercream was changed to a milk or dark chocolate then I would certainly call these Bounty Cupcakes. The cupcake would also be well-suited by a fruit or a coconut frosting.

Coconut Cupcakes
  • 1 1/2 cups  flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, soft
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (or reduced coconut milk)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  2. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Add vanilla to coconut milk and stir to combine. Set aside.
  4. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluff. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add flour mixture and coconut milk mixture in 3 additions, beating after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl so batter is evenly mixed. Fold in shredded coconut.
  6. Fill muffin cups evenly, about 3/4 full. Bake cupcakes until cakes gently spring back when touched, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Let cupcakes rest in pan for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely before frosting.
White Chocolate Buttercream
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • a couple tbsp milk or cream 
  • 6 oz. good quality white chocolate, melted and cooled
  1. Cream the butter and salt together, adding sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beating until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and a tbsp of milk or cream at time mixing until fully incorporated.
  2. Stir in the melted white chocolate gently.
  3. Beat frosting for an additional 3 minutes until fluffy. Add more sugar or milk if needed.
  4. Ice cupcakes and sprinkle with toasted coconut if desired.

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Baklava

I love baklava – I have since my first bite which was long before my trip to either Greece or Turkey this year. Fortunately for me baklava in both Greece and Turkey is the best in the world and I managed to eat a lot of it! Greek and Turkish baklava is quite different and I must admit I do prefer the Turkish variety – I find it more moist! Unfortunately I rarely get enough baklava and although expensive (due to the nuts) and a bit time consuming, its relatively simple to make at home. And then you can share it with your colleagues, or eat it all yourself. I won’t judge!

Baklava

  • 18 sheets ready-made filo pastry (unwrap and keep under a damp tea-towel until you are ready to use)
  • 225g/8oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 225g/8oz mixed pistachios and walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom

For the syrup

  • 350g/12oz granulated sugar
  • 300ml/10 fl oz water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp orange blossom water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 17cm x 28cm (11in x 7in) baking tray with butter.
  2. Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over low heat.
  3. Lay 10 sheets of filo pastry, one at a time, into the tray, brushing each sheet with butter before adding the next.
  4. In a clean bowl, mix together the nuts, sugar, juice and cardamom and spread the mixture over the pastry in the tray.
  5. Layer the remaining sheets on top of the nut mixture, brushing each sheet with butter, as before.
  6. Using a sharp knife, cut a criss-cross pattern into the top layers of the pastry.
  7. Place baklava in the preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 300F and cook for an additional half hour to 40 minutes, or until the pastry is slightly puffed and golden on top. Do not allow the top to burn.
  8. For the syrup, heat the sugar, water, lemon juice and orange blossom water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the sugar has melted and a syrup is formed. (This will take about 20 minutes or so.)
  9. Pour the syrup over hot baklava and place back in the oven (turn the oven off) for 3-5 minutes to help absorb. Remove from over and leave to cool. Cut into small diamond-shaped pieces and serve.

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Homemade Perogies

In university perogies were a bit of a staple on our household, so I’m surprised I was never inclined to make them from scratch before! But suddenly the idea was in and I had to make them asap, so I dragged Janice around the grocery store hunting for the perfect potatoes (floury and red skinned) and then hauled everything home to make that very night!

Perogies

  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, plus extra to serve with the pierogi
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces
  • butter and onions for sauteing
  • 5 large potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • Knob of butter
  • 4-8oz of grated cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Pierogi Dough
To prepare the pierogi dough, mix together the flour and salt. Beat the egg, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Add the 1/2 cup sour cream and the softened butter pieces and work until the dough loses most of its stickiness (about 5-7 minutes). You can use a food processor with a dough hook for this, but be careful not to overbeat. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes or overnight; the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Potato, Cheese & Onion Filling

Peel and boil potatoes until soft. While the potatoes are boiling, finely chop onion and saute in butter until soft and translucent. Mash the potatoes with the sauted onions and cheddar cheese, adding salt and pepper to taste. You can also add some fresh parsley, bacon, chives, or other enhancements if you desire. Let the potato mixture cool and then form into 1″ balls.

Prepare the Pierogies
Roll the pierogi dough on a floured board or countertop until 1/8″ thick. Cut circles of dough (2″ for small pierogies and 3-3 1/2″ for large pierogies) with a cookie cutter or drinking glass. Place a small ball of filling (about a tablespoon) on each dough round and fold the dough over, forming a semi-circle. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork.

Boil the perogies a few at a time in a large pot of water. They are done when they float to the top (about 8-10 minutes). Rinse in cool water and let dry. Saute chopped onions in butter in a large pan until onions are soft. Then add pierogies and pan fry until lightly crispy. Serve with sour cream.

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Pea Salad with Prosciutto and Mozarella

This is a delicious salad that is a new spin on peas. I love peas. Any way they come really, but this is one of my favourites because the flavours really offset each other nicely and the creamy mozzarella contrasts with the crunchy prosciutto and the pop of the peas. Its perfect for summer (and drunk with a mojito!)

Pea Salad with Prosciutto and Mozzarella

4 slices prosciutto
100g peas, (preferably fresh)
1 ball buffalo mozzarella, torn into large pieces

juice ½ orange
1 tbsp olive oil
small handful mint, leaves finely chopped

  1. Heat a frying pan. Without adding any oil, fry the prosciutto slices until wrinkled and crisp. Place on a sheet of paper towel and leave to cool before breaking into large shards.
  2. Boil the peas in a pan of salted water for 2 mins until just tender. Meanwhile, mix all the vinaigrette ingredients together, season, then set aside. If making ahead, do not add the chopped mint until ready to serve. When the peas are cooked, drain, then run them under cold water until completely cool.
  3. To serve, divide the mozzarella between 2 plates, scatter the peas over and sit the prosciutto shards on top. Drizzle the dressing over and around, and scatter with the mint leaves.

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Best Rice Pudding Ever

Much to my father’s chagrin I love rice pudding. Its one of my favourite desserts and I used to ask for it regularly when I was young. Unfortunately my father is not a fan, so the only time we’d have rice pudding at home was when we had a lot of leftover cooked rice. When I moved out I experimented with lots of different rice pudding recipes. I have developed a clear favourite that has lots of possible variations. Its creamy and sweet, but doesn’t seize too much once it cold. Be sure to use a medium grain rice (any regular rice will do). I use 2 percent milk, but whole would give a creamier texture. The egg yolks added at the end enhance the flavour and texture, but be sure not to let the eggs cook too fast or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs in your pudding.

I know it doesn't look very appetizing, but I swear its delicious!

Rice Pudding

4 cups milk
1/2 cup raw medium-grain white rice
Pinch salt
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar

Dump the milk, rice and salt into a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue simmering, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and the pudding is reduced to about 3-1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Stir to prevent scorching and watch closely.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract. Slowly add the cooked rice mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, making sure to scrape the bowl. Set the pan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring and scraping the sides and bottom of the pan constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of the spoon, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the pudding to a bowl or serving dish and lay a sheet of plastic wrap right on the pudding’s surface to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

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St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s day in most of the world seems to be a celebration of excessive green and excessive drinking while everyone pretends to be Irish. And before anyone says I sound unimpressed – I do actually like all those things! To be fair, I don’t have to pretend to be Irish – that comes naturally from my mother’s side. But as for green and drinking – those I can embrace wholeheartedly! So of course for St Patrick’s day I celebrated by making green food, although technically I made said food earlier in the week. My reason for this was so I could share my green alcoholic cupcakes with my coworkers (yes drinking at work is for the cool kids) instead of eating them all myself… Earlier today I went to the St Patrick’s day parade and outdoor concert in the city centre, but as luck would have it, I completely failed at photos due to dead batteries. Must remember to check batteries before leaving the house. However, the parade was a sea of green and the Celtic music was lovely and lively. But today I’m going to share my recipe for Guinness and coffee chocolate cupcakes with Bailey’s Buttercream. So good… I’ve been bribing all the delivery guys at work with them so they’ll be nice to me. Pretty sure it’s working! This recipe is adapted from one I found on the Brown Eyed Baker’s blog, so if you want the original, head on over there!

Yummy… and Green!

Chocolate Coffee and Guinness Cake with Baileys Frosting

For the Cake:
1 cup Guinness
½ cup strong coffee
1½ cups unsalted butter
1 cup cocoa powder
3 cups flour
3 cups granulated sugar
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (I used Greek style)
For the Frosting:
1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
4 Tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put liners in cupcake tins (makes 24-36).
2. Place the stout, coffee and butter in a large, heavy saucepan, and heat until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the cocoa powder. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.
4. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sour cream. Add the stout-cocoa mixture, mixing to combine. Add the flour mixture and mix together at slow speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix again for 1 minute.
5. Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out of their pans and returning to the rack to finish cooling completely before frosting.
Frosting:
1. Cream butter and slowly add half the icing sugar beating well. Add the Bailey’s and vanilla. Continue adding icing sugar and beating until the proper consistency is achieved. (Add a few drops green food colouring if desired)
2. Decorate cupcakes.

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