As some of you know I fricken adore Christmas! mostly because I love Christmas carols and Christmas stories but also because it just seems like a lovely, special time of year.
There is totally some Christmas magic in the way people share food and gifts with their loved ones year after year and some even give gifts or their own time to other people in need like the homeless. It's also one of the only times a year that I get to see my family and bake those extra special delicious treats, this makes Christmas my most favourite holiday by far!
I'm planning on baking several delicious Christmas treats this year...
1. My rocky road
Its kind of my signature Christmas treat, I get a lot of requests for it which is always a sign of a good recipe! I first made it about 5 years ago now and have been bringing a batch home to my Mum and Dad's every Christmas since. It's really easy but impressive (stay tuned for the recipe).
2. Lemon shortbread
I just baked this for the first time this evening and am so stoked with it! (recipe to follow)
3. Mini gingerbread houses
4. Christmas cupcakes
I've bought a heap of cool new Christmas sprinkles and can't wait to make some Christmas themed cupcakes this year, maybe these ones?
We have recently moved into our friends house and one of my favourite things so far is that they seem to have an endless supply of lemons in their fruit bowl! I reeeally love lemons (see my previous post on my lemon obsession here)
Last Saturday I decided to make some lemon halloween cupcakes but that recipe only used 2 lemons out of a possible 15 or more in the fruit bowl! So on Sunday night I decided to make my lemon meringue pie for my new flatmates. I haven't made one in about 3 years! I don't really know why its been so long since I made one of these delicious pies but it seemed like time (plus the recipe used a whopping 9 lemons!) Below is my fool proof lemon meringue pie recipe, its based on the Australian Woman Weekly recipe but with a few of my own additions, enjoy!
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons icing sugar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons water, approximately
1/2 cup cornflour
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 8-9 lemons)
1 1/4 cups water
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
3 egg yolks
60g unsalted butter
zest of 4 lemons
1/2 cup castor sugar
3 egg whites
To make the pastry:
Rub the butter into the flour to make fine crumbs, add the egg yolk and two tablespoons of water until it comes together then refrigerate for 30 min.
To make the filling:
While your waiting for your pastry to cool its time to start juicing your lemons, don't forget to zest 4 of them. Combine all the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil until the mixture gets very thick!! Set aside your egg whites in a clean bowl for the meringue. Let cool.
Roll out your pastry and blind bake it for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
To make the meringue:
Add the sugar to your egg whites a table spoon at a time while you are beating them with an electric mixer. Beat until soft peaks occur and the mixture is beautiful and glossy!
Finally, place your lemon filling into the baked pastry crust and pile on top of that your delicious meringue! I like to use a spoon to form nice big peaks or spikes so when it cooks you get that classic lemon meringue pie 'look' on top :-)
My experience with American breakfasts was pretty much the same as all of my other culinary experiences in the US- amazing!
I guess the typical American Breakfast would be the diner breakfast which you can find on pretty much any street corner of a major US city. Our first american diner breakfast was at a place called Tad's steak house in San Francisco. I got the french toast with a side of scrambled eggs and sausage (seemed a little weird to this kiwi girl but it worked) and James got eggs, bacon, toast and breakfast potatoes. We had heard from locals that depending on the diner you go to it can mean a fantastic meal or a terrible one. Luckily ours was a good diner experience! What I loved about the diners was that you got to have as many coffee top ups as you liked and the meals were real value for money. Plus your table always had lots of condiments on it like syrup, jelly, peanut butter etc so you could put whatever you liked on your breakfast for no extra charge which is cool.
The next breakfast experience I had was in Philadelphia where I got to try huckleberry jam on my french toast and wow! What a treat! They were from a really cool cafe/restaurant inside our hotel called Red Owl Tavern. I'm now looking into huckleberries and the possibility of growing them in NZ after this breakfast, yep it was just that good!
Cupcakes in America weren't everything I'd hoped :-( They sell them everywhere which is the first thing I noticed but while they had a lot and most were very pretty not every cupcake was created equal. In fact the first one I tried was from a cupcake store at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and I was pretty disappointed. I think my own ones were actually a lot better! But then I tried one from whole foods in NY and that one was pretty good and then I tried the best of the best which I bought from a place called Georgetown Cupcake in D.C.
Georgetown Cupcake is my totally my new favourite bakery and cupcake place! They had such incredible flavours and all of them were just as beautiful as you see in cupcake recipe books. We had caught a bus out to Georgetown especially to go to this cupcake store so I'm pretty glad they lived up to the hype.
A close up of their banana split cupcake I bought
We had some really, really good burgers too. One of the best I tried was this one below from Five Guys in Washington D.C. The Burger bun was the highlight (which sounds weird because I don't know that much about bread) It's just so good, really light and fluffy bread but a little sweet too plus their cheese is really different to ours I don't know how they do it I just know it was one of the best cheeseburgers I've tasted. They also had every type of Coke, Fanta and Mello Yellow you could think of there and to be perfectly honest they had so many flavours I hadn't heard of most of them.
As most of you know my husband is a HUGE coffee enthusiast (I guess that's what you'd call him anyway?) He really know's his coffee and we were a bit worried that we would struggle to find a good coffee in the US but rest assured we had no problems at all. I think on the whole we had really good coffee, even the filter coffee you get at most diners was pretty reasonable. We discovered Blue bottle which is a really big deal in San Fran and both my friend from California and James's friend had told us to try it out. Verdict? Really, really good coffee!
I really liked their marketing too- so cute! Plus they do awesome waffles there too so of course I tried one of those as well!
In New York we went to a really cool coffee place with our friends called Joe coffee. The closet thing you can get to a flat white is something they call a cortado. Which is basically a small coffee with warmed milk. It too was really, really good!
Other incredible food moments we had included this key lime pie from Wholefoods, incredible BBQ from Percy Street BBQ in Philadelphia, this chocolate below (also from Whole foods), ice cream sandwiches, and pepperoni pizza to name a few!
As many of you know America is the motherland of pretty much all my favourite baked goods. We're talking brownies, pies, cupcakes and basically all the high fat aka high delicious factor foods that exist!
I just recently went to the USA for a holiday and got to experience some of the most incredible food EVER, this is a post dedicated to just a small sample of those treats I got to try.... Frozen yoghurt
More commonly known as "FroYo" in the states is basically a self serve yoghurt machine with different flavors but the real treat lies in the toppings....
The place we went to with our friends had EVERYTHING! Cherries, sprinkles, broken up chocolate bars, nuts in fact theres so many I've just decided to paste a picture of some of them off their website...
Just wow! You can choose as many as you like and then you pay by how much it weighs. I couldn't choose so just decided to go with as many as I could! Result? a seriously amazing frozen treat like no other I've tried. Plus it was soy! :-) Brownies
Every brownie I tried in America was about ten times better than any brownie I've tried in NZ. Crazy right? How is it that they can be so much better? I guess because they did invent them so they should be the experts right? My absolute favourite was from a little deli in New York called Pax Wholesome Deli It was just a plain chocolate brownie with chocolate icing and it was amazing!
Here are two others I tried and also loved!
Caramel, pecan and white chocolate brownie purchased from Magnolia Bakery in New York.
and a Salted Caramel brownie purchased from Wholefoods
O.M.G! I don't even know where to start. Sandwiches in the USA are so good they are almost a religious experience. I had more amazing sandwiches in 2 weeks than I've had in my whole life.
One of my favourites was this sandwich below that we purchased from a place called Lenny's in NY.
Corned beef, Hot pastrami, American cheese and homemade coleslaw. Om nom nom nom!
I also had my fair share of incredible turkey, cranberry and cheese sandwiches. Americans really love their turkey! as well as trying this beast which we purchased from a street fair in New York. Hot pastrami, homemade dill pickles and mustard.
and of course I had to try this...
A Philly Cheesesteak from Carmen's in Philadelphia aka where Obama likes to get his Cheesesteak!
Next post I'll tell you about the breakfasts, cupcakes, burgers and coffee :-)
Every year I create a birthday cake for my husband. Most years I can easily think of something that he will love but this year I have soooo many ideas I can't even begin to choose. I thought some of my lovely readers might like to help me decide which one to bake?
Mountain bike cake
Arcade game cake
You can vote on my Facebook page or leave me a comment.
I really like toast...scratch that...I frickin LOVE toast! usually its only with Pic's peanut butter but recently I have branched out to Barkers Strawberry jam too! (although I think homemade jam would be even better!)
This Easter weekend I decided to get back into baking my own bread after I baked some yummy hot cross buns with the children at work the day before.
Homemade bread really is phenomenal for toast! I've decided that wholemeal is far superior for toasting so thought I'd share one of my favourite wholemeal bread recipes. It's from the BBC which seems fitting- I mean surely the British know how to make good toast, they invented it!
(Amazing toast picture care of Pinterest)
400g wholemeal flour 50g white flour 2 tsp yeast Half a 500mg vitamin C tablet, crushed 2 tsp salt 3 tsp brown sugar 400ml warm water 50g melted butter
1. Tip the flours, yeast, vitamin powder, salt and sugar into a bowl and mix well. Add 300ml water, and stir in well, then pour in the butter and work in well. You should have a soft, sticky dough: if not, add a little more water. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.
2. Tip out on to a lightly oiled work surface and knead for 10 seconds, then put back in the bowl and cover. Repeat twice more at intervals of 10 minutes, then leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes.
3. Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle about the length of your baking tin, then roll up tightly, and put into a greased tin, with the join facing downwards. Cover and leave to rest in a warm place until it has doubled in height (at least 1½ hours).
4. Pre-heat the oven to 220C. Bake the bread for 20 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 200C and cook for a further 15–20 minutes, until the crust is a deep brown, and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Turn out on to a cooling rack.
For our anniversary picnic I baked James caramel banana cupcakes it was my second attempt at caramel banana cupcakes my first batch was for my Hunger Games Cupcakes I made last year. This time I used banana chips for decorations (instead of Hunger Games ones) and I used cream cheese icing instead of a banana flavored one. Here's my recipe and some delish pictures, enjoy! <3
Banana Cupcake (I use Annabel Langbein's recipe but you can use any banana cake recipe you like)
Cook time:15-20 mins
Makes: 1 large cake, 4 small cakes or 12 muffin-sized cake
250g butter, softened 1½ cups sugar 4 eggs 2 tsp natural vanilla essence 4 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (about 2 cups) 2 tsp baking soda ½ cup hot milk 3 cups flour 2 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 170°C. Then prepare muffin tins by placing cupcake cases in each hole.
Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs and vanilla then bananas. Dissolve baking soda in hot milk and add to mixture. Sift over flour and baking powder and fold in.
Spoon mixture into prepared tin(s) and smooth top. Bake until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean and the top is springy to the touch. About 25 minutes. Cool in tin and ice when cool. Store in a sealed container in a cool place for 2-3 days or wrap un-iced cupcakes and freeze.
Icing: 1/4 cup cream cheese 2 cups of icing sugar a nob of butter about 25 g milk to mix a splash of vanila Warm you cream cheese and butter until soft- about 30 seconds in the microwave Then beat with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add the icing sugar, vanilla and enough milk for the mix to come together, keep beating for about 5 minutes or so adding more milk if needed. It should be light, fluffy and smooth. Then pipe onto the cupcakes with a large circle nozzle. For help on putting the caramel inside the cupcakes check out this recipe xx SR
I haven't done very much baking lately because I'd been really busy teaching and getting ready for our end of year holiday! But now that Christmas, teacher interviews and our big British adventure have all come to a close I can happily say I've freed up some time to get my bake on!
Tomorrow is our first wedding anniversary and I'm planning a bit of secret baking extravaganza! But I'm not going to give away to much yet because James actively reads my blog posts... all I can say is its going to be pretty epic- stay tuned for a blog post soon.
I've got the most hideous hay fever at the moment! It seems to be plaguing me this year so I thought I would share a nice soothing remedy I found online and have been using for the past few weeks.
Hay fever tea:
Peppermint, ginger and chamomile are all herbs that are said to lessen the affects of hay fever, this is a nice calming tea to make that has helped ease my itchiness. One Peppermint tea bag Fresh ginger One Chamomile tea bag Honey Mint leaves Brew the tea in a large teapot with a few springs of mint, a tablespoon of honey and some freshly peeled ginger (about 5 large slices). Drink hot or cold
Does anybody else out there get really bad hay fever? All tips/remedies are greatly appreciated!
Hope your 2013 has been treating you well so far?
(I didn't bake this I just thought it was super cute and it's Champagne flavoured!)