09 January, 2014

Monte Carlos

When I purchased the sweet little book, The Afternoon Tea Collection, from the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble, I had no idea the delights that awaited me.

So far I have made a few of the recipes, and this one is another hit. Buttery, coconut sugar cookies are sandwiched with butter cream and a dollop of jam ~ they are irresistible. These cookies are naughty, they call to you from the tin in the other room. Thank goodness they are so tiny, I don't feel too horrible sneaking one. The recipe was easily halved, as I didn't think we could possibly eat 50 within a few days time before we either tired of them or they were no longer so great. I'm sure these would make a welcome treat to a holiday cookie tray or even a bake sale. Little bites of heaven, I say.

The recipe is simple, although filling the cookies was a bit fiddly. I came up with a technique in which I spread a generous layer of buttercream on one cookie, then took my offset spatula and scooped a tiny bit out of the middle, dollopped the jam in that little hole and popped another cookie on top. This seemed to prevent loads of oozing jam. There was still some ooze, but not nearly as much and honestly, who cares? Oozing jam makes them that much more appealing. Case in point, my oozy jam photo, looks brilliant, doesn't it? *Le sigh* I'm off to that cute little tin in the kitchen, full of delightful little gems...

Monte Carlos
from The Afternoon Tea Collection

185g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon coconut extract
110g brown sugar
1 egg
185g self rising flour
110g plain flour
40g desiccated coconut (shredded, unsweetened coconut)

30 jam
120g icing sugar
60g unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
2 teaspoon cream

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line cookie trays with parchment.

Beat butter, sugar, extracts and coconut, along with a generous pinch of salt until light and fluffy. Add egg, beat until incorporated. Add flours and beat until just comes together. Roll teaspoons of dough into balls and place on cookie trays 1 inch apart. Flatten eat cookie with the tines of a fork. Bake for 12 minutes until lightly golden. Cool completely on cooling racks. Beat icing sugar, butter, extracts and cream until a thick butter cream comes together. Spread a generous amount onto the flat, bottom of one cookie, using an offset spatula, gently scoop a tiny amount of cream from the middle to make an indentation for the jam, dollop a drop of jam (about 1/4 teaspoon) into the hole, sandwich another cookie on top and gently press together. These cookies should be tiny, a two little bite wonder. Keep that in mind when shaping the cookies ~ they should be about the size of a nickel (if it were a spherical shape).

26 December, 2013

Christmas Book Joy

We got some goodies this year!! Above are the books I received. I am thrilled about them all. :o)
Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons
Quiet by Susan Cain
The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman
Code Name Verity by  Elizabeth Wein
Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights by Sophie Dahl
The New Annotated Sense and Sensibility
Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten 

And these are the books my daughter received for Christmas. There are some excellent goodies she cannot wait to read in that pile! 
My Story: Wartime Princess by Valerie Wilding
My Story: Cadogan Square by Carol Drinkwater
The Whole Set of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Nurse Matilda Trilogy by Christinanna Brand
And The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips

25 December, 2013

Happy Christmas Friends

Wishing you all a beautiful Christmas and a New Year filled with love and joy! 

09 December, 2013

The Tardis Will Arrive Shortly & I'll Be Ready

My wonderful bookclub had their British themed Christmas party this weekend and I made Jammy Dodgers in honor of The Dr. 

I used Pam Corbin's wonderful recipe from The River Cottage Cakes Handbook. They turned out beautifully, were simple to make, and were utterly delicious. I would make them again in a heartbeat!

17 November, 2013

Bibliophilic Indulgences

New books. Oh the joy. Oh the delights that await. I've been a bit indulgent when it comes to books and have purchased this lovely array of treats to be devoured in between the craziness of Mummy Life and UniversityLife...

Here's the list of lovelies:
~Jane-a-Day 5 Year Diary
~Dawn French's A Tiny Bit Marvelous & Oh Dear Siliva
~Angela Huth's Land Girls
~Winifred Holtby's Anderby Wold, South Riding, Poor Caroline, & The Land of Green Ginger
~Jane Fearnley- Whittingstall's Happily Ever After & Recipes from an Edwardian Kitchen
~Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

I did some deal shopping. Between coupons and credits and sales, I got the whole lot for less than $7 a book. Not too shabby. Not as great as a used bookshop, but they are, sadly (devastatingly, really), a dying breed.

15 November, 2013

Peyton & Byrne's Coconut Fairy Cakes

Another stunner from Peyton and Byrne's British Baking book. Oh my giddy god's pajamas are these cupcakes {fairy cakes} luscious. The heady scent of coconut permeated the house and it was a truly delightful Friday morning. I'll make these again, there's no doubt about that. I know a few coconut lovers who would very much appreciate one of these scrumptious beauties.

The swiss meringue buttercream is ever so slightly time consuming, but in the end you have this ethereal, fluffy white cloud, frosting that is one in a million. The cakes are moist and flavorful. I changed a few things, I didn't do the raspberries in the bottom of each pastry case as called for. These are, after all, really entitled 'Coconut and Raspberry Fairy Cakes'. It is Autumn here and raspberries aren't in season, so I skipped them. I added the zest of one lemon and 1 teaspoon of coconut extract to the batter. A 1/2 teaspoon of coconut extract was also added to the frosting. Both of these additions helped to create a truly coconutty cake. The vanilla, coconut, and lemon all seem to fall in love and create this lovely scented, flavorful cake. Combine that with the frosting and prepare to be wowed.

With each recipe I make from this book I fall more and more in love. So far, everything has been a smashing success, which is so reassuring when you give over good ingredients to someone else's recipe. I wonder which recipe will be next? Coffee and walnut cake? Banoffee Pie? We shall see...

07 October, 2013

Nerdy Doughnut Love - Cooking with Miss Lils

I was recently on the ATK feed and saw the infographic for 'A Nerd's Guide to Making Doughnuts' and thought, 'Yup, I'm on that!' And I was. And it was wonderful.

It was a rainy Friday last week, so after school Princess and I set to work making proper, yeasted, fried doughnuts. They. Were. Amazing. Have you ever had a warm doughnut all covered in crunchy cinnamon sugar? Oh my goodness, you must, I tell you. Don't waste another minute! Get into the kitchen!

The dough was simple, as easy, breezy as whipping together a pizza dough. We put it in a really warm place and it was ready to go in no time. Princess loved rolling them out. Sadly I didn't get any photos of that. I was probably having too much fun to think of it. I did the frying bit, but she was close to hand to check it out from atop a chair several feet away. The whole experience was fun.

I've been so busy with university studies that I'm not as engaged with Princess as I'd like to be. I decided doing a regular cooking afternoon with her is a good way to spend time together and hopefully it'll inspire me to post on a more regular basis. Having times like this at the end of a hectic week help us to bond and be close amidst the chaos of busy lives. Moral of the story, get into the kitchen and cook with your kids ~ they'll love it and it's a great opportunity to discuss science, math, history and just be together - there are all sorts of  great personal and educational opportunities in the kitchen. Plus, you get to devour what you create! Yum!

Click HERE for the infographic and recipe.

01 October, 2013

Peyton & Byrne's British Brownies

I'm really in truly off and running with Peyton and Byrne's Gorgeous British Baking cookbook. I decided to give the brownies a go and, oh my goodness, they may very well be my new favorite brownie recipe. Simple yet so perfect. I added chocolate chips and toffee bits, but like any basic brownie recipe you can tailor it to your liking.

The brownies are magnificent. There is a punch of chocolate flavor and they are oh so rich and fudgy, yet somehow they have an almost ethereal texture to them. I'm all about these brownies. If you are desperate for a chocolate fix, these brownies are for you. Honestly, go and buy this cookbook.

27 September, 2013

Princesses & Cider Doughnuts

What a fantastic day. We partially decorated the house for Autumn, mostly the inside. Tomorrow we're planning to pick up some mums and pumpkins for our front porch. I love this time of year. It's so warm and cozy. I love the switch to heartier, autumnal fare. I recently bought a doughnut pan and I've been dying to try it. Tonight I whipped up a simple batch of cider doughnuts using King Arthur Flour's recipe mixed with some different tips I've read.

I made a glaze from boiled cider, powdered sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and a smidge of butter. I just basically mixed a bit of this and and bit of that I make a quick glaze that was nice and thick. A trick I read about was to dip the warm doughnuts into butter and then a sugar/cinnamon mix. Although they are not the same as fried doughnuts, they are tasty none the less. The cinnamon sugar dipped ones seem to be the favorite amongst the three of us, but both versions are quite good. 

24 September, 2013

Welcome Autumn ~ Toffee Apples

Several months back, I treated myself to Peyton and Byrne's British Baking cook book. I've been drooling over the photos for months but haven't been doing much baking. *Tisk Tisk* A few weeks ago we went apple picking up in Stowe and we sure have a lot of apples. Pies have been baked, endless apples have been eaten on the ride to here and there and everywhere... and still we've got a lot of apples. 

I needed a quick breather from studying today and whipping up some toffee apples seemed like just the trick to calming my nerves. Along with a hot cuppa, I was off and running. These were easy; the toffee cooks up fairly quickly, less than 10 minutes, a couple of minutes of cooling and you're rolling apples in toffee. 

The toffee is lush, not really like the rich caramel you usually get at fairs and local farms. It was more like the flavor of Werthers candies, a softer, lighter, butterscotchy flavor. I Love, LOVE them. I may have eaten two and a half tonight. So naughty, but worth it.

One recipe down, many more to go. This is a gorgeous book and this recipe was a cinch and a sure bet. This book wows, I would definitely recommend buying it or taking it out from your local library if they've got a copy, even if it's just for reading pleasure. 

23 September, 2013

Fancy That - A Review

Let me start by saying, I wasn't planning to write a review for the blog. I had a test this morning, and I still have a project and paper to write for Wednesday, so blogging seemed kind of, well, silly. But here I am. It was that good. For serious.

Sunday I had the good fortune of going for tea at Fancy That in Walpole and it was exceptionally lovely. Being such a crazy detail oriented person, I found myself noticing all the little touches in every nook and cranny of the experience and I have to admit, I was highly impressed. From the actual decor, to the table settings, to the food. And the tea, oh my! What a selection!

We were brought our tea, hot, steeped and ready to be poured, by our very friendly server. The food was presented beautifully and it was delicious. From the top tier there was a cinnamon and raisin scone, it was flavorful and yummy with clotted cream and jam, as well as a slice of lemon cake. The lemon cake was one of my favorite things on the tray, it was moist and the flavor was strong without being abrasive, as citrus can sometimes be. The middle tier was our yummy finger sandwiches. Cucumber, ham and cheese, and chicken salad. The cucumber was very good; while the chicken salad was good it wasn't memorable. It was lacking something, fresh herbs perhaps, something to set it apart from just an ordinary chicken salad with cranberries. The ham was the star in my opinion. There was a great balance of flavors from the salty ham, zingy mustard, and the pumpernickel and rye swirl bread put it over the top for me. On to that bottom tier, everyone's favorite, dessert! Well, this everyone's favorite, that's for sure. It had an adorable little pink vanilla cupcake. I'm a picky cake girl. I expect perfection from cakes and this was spot on. The cake was moist, had a light crumb and great flavor. The frosting melted in your mouth and tasted of real vanilla. There was a macaron, which I always love. This one was orange, which I kind of wasn't exactly excited about. I'm not the biggest fan of orange as a stand out flavor. As a subtle undertone, it's fine, but star of the show, no thanks. I was pleasantly surprised, the orange flavor was subtle and the flavor of the almonds seemed to be more of what hit me. I loved it. The best dessert, in my opinion, was the raspberry mousse cup. Holy mother goose, was it delicious. I could have eaten 100 of these. Delicious on every front.

The gift shop, which is the room you enter in to when you arrive, it top notch. The china collection available is amazing, I kept thinking I could easily drop $100 in here on tea cups. But, I was a good girl and miraculously didn't. I was elated to finally, after years of searching antique shops all over New England, able to find a beautiful daffodil tea cup and promptly snatched it up.

I'm definitely eager to go back. The food and service was excellent and the owner and her husband were kind, gracious hosts. Places like this are hard to find in a world driven by a rushing, bustling undercurrent of consume, and consume fast. Fancy That is like a sanctuary, where a calming, hot cuppa and some refreshments are waiting to see you through. It was a real treat!

09 September, 2013

Back to Uni

I've decided to go back to University. It was a great, big decision. I'm pretty excited about it, though. I'll be getting a history degree and hopefully moving on to graduate school. Wow! Posts have been scarce, but that is just because life seems to get in the way of blogging sometimes. I do plan to do some posts this autumn though. I've got toffee apples, coffee and walnut cake, a few different breads and more complex pastries that have been earmarked for testing and hopefully picture taking and post writing. I've also got some posts that are waiting to be proof read and shared with the world. *Wink wink* We'll see how things swing on through this semester, hopefully we'll be seeing more of one another, blogging world.

Until then, happy baking!

08 August, 2013

Wahlburgers - A Review

Mr. H and I had the pleasure of heading out on a proper date last weekend and being the cheeseburger obsessed woman that I am, I begged and pleaded to go to Wahlburgers. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating ever so slightly, Mr. H is a pretty big burger fan too so it was an easy sell.

Wahlburgers is located in the beautiful Hingham Shipyard, a stones throw from the Hingham Harbor. We thought it would be smart, as it was a gorgeous day, to head out early and we were lucky to be seated outside on the patio. The place is really fun. There's a counter where you can order and seat yourself or there is also a dining area with servers and a full bar, which includes a nice outdoor seating area.

From top left clockwise:  BBQ Bacon Burger, The Melt, 
Surf & Turf Burger, Fries and Tater Tots

The menu is simple with a number of different burgers and sandwiches to please any burger enthusiast. I am completely in love with this place, honestly, I was in heaven. We loved it so gosh darn much we went back the next weekend. We just had to bring the burger obsessed offspring, affectionately known as 'Princess'. She loved it. And keeps asking when we'll be back. With our burgers we got some amazing milkshakes ~ my other massive obsession in life is milkshakes. They are my downfall! 

With both trips we tried a few different things. I'm a creature of habit, so I got the same thing both times. Mr. H, the adventurous one, got something different and really exciting both times. I got to try a few bites of his and I liked the BBQ Bacon burger a lot, but I wasn't too crazy about the Surf and Turf. I love burgers and I love lobster, but not in the same bite. Mr H, on the other hand, thought it was stellar. I'm bonkers for The Melt though. Everything I want in a burger, toasty bread, cheese, a gorgeous mustard sauce, caramelized onions and lots of thinly sliced, perfect pickles. Oh My! They were very accommodating with Princess, she got to pick whatever she wanted on her burger. The clincher though are the tater tots. It must be said, I'm not normally a fan of this school lunch staple, but these were knock your socks off amazing. Super crispy and slightly salty, with a creamy interior. Would highly recommend any burger enthusiast in the area to give it a go. Oh my gosh, now I'm going to be dreaming about Wahlburgers and our next encounter!

19 June, 2013

The Dunbar Tea Room - A Review

Over the weekend my Mum took me to the Dunbar Tea Room in Sandwich, Massachusetts on picturesque Cape Cod. The Dunbar Tea Room is a quaint tea shop and restaurant in the heart of Sandwich that offers traditional tea lunch options, as well as the usual scones and crumpets and host of what look to be primarily pre-made, frozen desserts/cakes. Dunbar is a beautiful tea room, elegantly decorated in a warm and friendly style. There is also a gorgeous outdoor seating area, which on nice days is the perfect place to take in the beauty of downtown Sandwich.

Having only been to Dunbar a few times and having only had some simple choices, I was eager to try the afternoon tea option. I wish I could say that I loved it, but I found much of the food lacking. It seemed like the sandwiches had been refrigerated together for a prolonged period of time and nothing had much flavor or freshness. The lettuce in my ham sandwiches was wilted and mushy and the other sandwiches weren't anything particularly exciting or tasty; butter and cucumber with no seasoning/flavor and some sort of cream cheese spread between bread. My scone didn't come with my tea tray as they were baking some fresh. When it arrived it ended up being the one thing that was actually quite good. It was not served with the authentic clotted cream, which is understandable as it is hard to come by here in the states, but rather with whipped cream and jam. The desserts were not good at all. Perhaps I am spoiled, but there were two brownie type items that looked completely different but tasted exactly the same. There was also a plain brownie that was very hard and a pecan bar that was also quite hard, my suspicion is that it had been refrigerated like the other desserts on the tray, they all had a chill to them and were awfully hard.

The saving grace was the tea. They have an amazing selection in the shop. I believe a lot of the loose tea available for purchase is Harney and Sons and their tea is top notch. I don't know that I'd recommend Dunbar to many people nor would I visit on my own, but I would go back with my Mum as I know she loves it and the experience of going out for afternoon tea is something special. It was difficult for me to write a less than glowing review of a place that I had previously really enjoyed visiting. My overall impression is that no one working there is all that happy to be there. Our waitress was friendly enough, but seemed very frazzled and the service was insanely slow. Several other servers/busboys looked positively frightened of the owner and avoided interaction with her like the plague. None of the individuals who worked there were particularly friendly or warm, which in a tea room is hugely important. Most people are going there to relax and spend quality time with someone they love. As aesthetically pleasing as Dunbar is, that beautiful atmosphere is diminished by the mediocrity of the food and the attitude of the individuals who work there. 

14 February, 2013

Valentine's Day Easy Chocolate Mousse

I love me some Valentine's Day. Every year I make something special and this year, as I am recovering from a cold and the blizzard of 2013, I decided on an easy recipe. Nigella Lawson's Instant Chocolate Mousse.

I don't know that I'd call it instant, but it's quick and easy. It's also good if you have children, are pregnant or just cannot get fresh enough eggs to feel comfortable consuming raw eggs, which is what a traditional chocolate mousse contains.

This chocolate mousse relies on marshmallows to get that ethereal, airy texture. Because marshmallows are so sweet it's really important to us a good quality, DARK chocolate here. I even go so far as to add a bit more than the recipe suggests, probably an extra two or three ounces. I want my chocolate mousse to be really chocolatey. It's as simple and melting all the ingredients together for five or ten minutes, allowing the mixture to cool and then folding it in to some whipped cream. Easy peasy, impressive and utterly scummy.

I've made this recipe quite a few times and it is my daughter's favorite so I thought it would be nice to make it for a decadent dessert on Valentine's Day. I may have had a few spoonfuls for my breakfast, or rather as an appetizer to my breakfast. Wink wink.

I definitely ate that blob of chocolate mousse off the counter.

This recipe is readily available on Nigella's website and in her book, Express.

02 January, 2013

Cinnamon Babka

There's something that happens to me after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, something that has me feeling hungry for hearty, healthy things. There's also a part of me that is hungry for homemade breads. During these cold New England winter months, the smell of bread baking and the warmth that it brings to the home help me to cope much better with the chill in the air. I have a few old reliables, but I love to try new bread recipes. Sometimes things can get hairy, sometimes things turn out mind blowing. Fortunately, this was one of the latter experiences.

I recently picked up a few special issues of Cook's Illustrated, one of which is the Best Recipes and Reviews 2013. The recipe for Cinnamon Babka had my mouth watering and I've been itching to try it.

The recipe was fairly easy and straightforward, but I did have to add a significant amount of additional flour as the dough was far too wet and sticky. I would say somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 cup of additional flour finally got the dough to come together. The final dough is like an ultra moist and truly delicious brioche. It's got the golden hue of brioche and that luxurious, almost cakey texture. There is a sweetness to this bread, perhaps a from the vanilla in the dough.

The finished bread is so amazing - it is a moist, slightly sweet brioche with an ooey, gooey cinnamon swirl. Totally worth the effort for an indulgent take on cinnamon swirl bread.

29 December, 2012

Christmas Candy Making

What is more fun than candy making? Nothing, I tell you. Nothing at all!

This year I wanted to give some homemade gifts from the kitchen and I set to work a week before Christmas making some of my favorite candies to give to my loved ones.

The first thing I made was Pam Corbin's Candied Orange Peel. This is one of those epiphany moments. Between the intoxicating smell that wafts through your home to the sweet and chewy texture of the finished candy, it is addicting. An added bonus, the left over syrup can be jarred and saved for champagne cocktails. Dipped in dark chocolate, these are a a homemade treat that will always impress.

The second chocolate I set out to make is the one chocolate that I always get when I visit a chocolate/candy shop, the coconut cluster, also known as the coconut haystack. I use unsweetened coconut and I toast it and mix it with some really high quality chocolate, milk chocolate is always a favorite with coconut. So easy and so super delicious.

The third and fourth chocolates I made were because of a bit of a mishap in the kitchen with an attempt at salted caramels. My candy thermometer is broken and the caramels didn't cook to the proper temperature and thus never fully set. I tried to wing it, but it was didn't work out in the end. I was left with a fair amount of gorgeous tasting caramel that I didn't have the heart to throw away. I decided to make these marvelous little dark chocolate salted caramel filled cups with half the caramel. With the other half I made milk chocolate salted peanut turtles. Those turned out brilliantly.

Although I hit that one bump in the road with the caramel, it turned out alright in the end. A labor of love created dozens of chocolates I was proud to give away to the ones I love. A fun new adventure into something different.

28 December, 2012

Reading Love

So it wasn't just a wonderful and special Christmas for me, it was a pretty special Christmas forms daughter. Among all of her toys, clothes and other fun items, were a number of books that are sure to leave a lasting impression on her life.

Among these treasures are Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Alice in Wonderland.

These was also the special presents from mother to daughter, the gift and no of Jane Austen. There is a wonderful publisher out there that has adapted Jane's novels into something little girls can enjoy, with lovely illustrations.

There is something really special about handing down a love and appreciation for great literature to your child. It was a wonderful Christmas indeed.