Friday, 29 April 2016

Treat Petite April 2016 Round Up

Thanks to everyone who took part in Treat Petite this month.

The theme was using a favourite sweet, chocolate or biscuit in a bake. It was great to see how people incorporated their favourite treats into a Treat Petite.

First up we have Ros, the More Than Occasional Baker who took her favourite chocolate bar Toffee Crisp, chopped it up and popped the pieces into cookie batter. Voila! Toffee Crisp Cookies – scrummy!

Next up was Choclette at Tin and Thyme, who made bourbon biscuits. I think there was a slight confusion over the theme, which I shall accept full responsibility for. No favourite treat used in these, but as they are a favourite treat, I think they are fair game! I love bourbon biscuits!

Angela, from Only Crumbs Remain made cute Butterfly Buns. Ingeniously she used white chocolate buttons, with sprinkles on, as the wings. I think this is a great idea and something I may nab in future!

Next was Sammie at Feasting is Fun who brought us Caramac Caramel Cookies. I noticed these online and badgered asked Sammie to enter these cookies as the addition of Caramac (a favourite of mine) looked so good. The Caramac buttons, which I’ve used before, were melted and drizzled on top. Yummo!

Kat, The Baking Explorer, and Treat Petite co-host was next up using Golden Oreo Cookies (so much better than a custard cream in my humble opinion) in blondies. The ‘stuff’ the middle as it’s called was visible when the blondies were cut up. Delicious stuff!

Lucy, the Baking Queen, used Crunchie bars in a slow cooker recipe for brownies. Crisp on the outside, these looked fudgy in the middle with the crunch of Crunchie coming through. Heaven!

Kate, the Gluten-Free Alchemist, whipped up After Eight Ice Cream Cake Sandwiches. These really look stunning, with the sandwiches mimicking the real After Eight with chocolate either side and a no-churn ice cream in the middle. The After Eight mints were cut into heart shaped and topped these treats off perfectly!

Sarah at From Plate to Pen made a Northern Irish no-bake traybake called Fifteens. Called this as there are 15 of each ingredient in the recipe, the stars of the show were marshmallows, but as Sarah explains Maltesers could be used too. Either way a great Sweet snack!

Johanna at the Green Gourmet Giraffe, posted from down under, these Milo Weetabix Slices. Using an Aussie favourite – Milo malted milk powder and Weetabix cereal, she made these delectable looking Aussie slices. Now, I’m sure we used to get Milo here in the UK, perhaps we can campaign to get it back??

I snuck in at the very end with my Mini Mallow Magic Bars. These are quite similar to other treats above in that they contain loads of different ingredients layered on top of one another, including chocolate chips, nuts, coconut etc. But the mini marshmallows were the sweet star in these. I loved Princess marshmallows as a kid and now you get them in mini-form. Ideal for using in baking!

Thanks again to everyone for taking part in Treat Petite this month and stay tuned for Kat’s theme next month over at The Baking Explorer.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Fridge Fitness: The Five Unwritten Rules

I recently collaborated with Betta Living for a piece on their website, about Fridge Fitness. Myself and other food bloggers gave our best tips on how to store food in the fridge, what not to keep in the fridge and so on.

I was then challenged by Betta Living to put all of the advice into practice with my own fridge. Now, before I start I must apologise for the fridge itself.

Until we moved, I had a lovely big stainless steel fridge that sat in our old kitchen. When we bought our new house, the fridge although not fitted – it sits in the utility room - was included in the sale.

The fridge wasn’t as big as ours and we thought we would put our one into the utility and put the previous owner’s one in the garage, for keeping beers cold and so on. On the day we moved, things were chaotic as you can imagine and our fridge ended up at the back of the garage, and we kept saying that we would swap them over one weekend. We did keep beers in our fridge in the garage, thinking this would be fine for a while. Until the bottles kept popping open and beer flowed everywhere! Every time the fridge was opened it stank like a brewery. We kept other bits and pieces in the fridge garage until it became evident that it was never going to make it into the house. The thermostat was broken, the journey to the new house obviously didn’t agree with it. Even on the highest temperature setting things started to freeze.

-          So that is one tip, first off, make sure that your fridge freezer is suitable to keep in garages if that’s what you are planning, as people tell me, not every fridge takes kindly to this!

As a result the previous owner’s fridge has remained in the house. It’s not a bad fridge, don’t get me wrong, but it has a few cracks and broken bits and pieces, plus it’s smaller than we are used to. So, the plan is to get a new one at some stage.

For now however, let's see how I score on the 5 unwritten rules in our inherited fridge;

1) Firstly, my own tips were regarding keeping dairy items in the fridge to keep them fresh. However, I would recommend removing them prior to baking, as butter and eggs really need to be at room temperature when incorporating them into a cake mix.

2) Don’t keep bread in the fridge, as I used to. Many people think that this keeps it fresher for longer but it actually dries it out and makes it less soft. As these were my tips, I scored well on these.

3) The next tip was to keep preserves, pickles and so on in the door fridge. This is the warmest spot in the fridge and is not the best place for milk surprisingly! As jars of preserves etc. are high in natural preservatives such as salt, sugar or vinegar they can cope with opening and closing of the door.

We do keep our jars in the door, so we score there. But we have been keeping milk in the door too, so we lose out on that point!

4) The next tip was to keep citrus fruits and apples in the fridge. Now, I score well on this as we always keep our limes in the fridge, ready to be used in gin and tonic! When they come out of the fridge however they may not yield as much juice being cold, so a wee tip to get more out of the lime is to roll it firmly on the kitchen worktop before cutting into it, or zapping it in the microwave for 10 seconds. Much juiciness!

We don't eat a lot of apples in our house, but as we have apple trees in our new garden, come the autumn I am hoping for a bumper crop and will certainly put this tip into practice.

5) Lastly, store meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge so that any meat juices don't drip down and spoil any other food. The fridge is also warmer at the top so isn't ideal for storing fresh meat. The bottom is colder and best placed for meat storage.

As you may be able to see I had just popped some frozen meat in the bottom of our fridge to defrost, so another point to me!

It can be difficult to keep to these rules, especially if you don't have a big fridge. But I have certainly tried to incorporate the rules into my 'fridge fitness'. I don't think I scored too badly, did I?

How do you measure up on the Fridge Fitness chart?

Monday, 25 April 2016

Mini Mallow Magic Bars

Magic bars - biscuit base, topped with walnuts, chocolate chunks, white chocolate chips, butterscotch bits, desiccated coconut, condensed milk and mini marshmallows.

This is my entry for this month’s Treat Petite which I’m slipping in just before the deadline. I bet my co-host Kat at The Baking Explorer was getting worried!!

I think I may have stumped a few folk with this month’s theme of favourite theme of sweets, biscuits and chocolates. The idea is to use a favourite one of these in a bake.

For my bake, I used marshmallows. I love marshmallows and in particular those Princess marshmallows which I loved growing up. In fact, I have a guilty secret which I am about to share with you! I used to eat the aforementioned mallows, dunking them first into condensed milk. This possibly explains my weight issues as a child, but does not explainmy lack of diabetes!

I wouldn’t recommend dunking mallows into condensed milk, but I can assure you it is delicious and very, very sweet. I wanted to use condensed milk in the recipe too, and I came up with these layered magic bars which you may seen elsewhere.

Magic bars - biscuit base, topped with walnuts, chocolate chunks, white chocolate chips, butterscotch bits, desiccated coconut, condensed milk and mini marshmallows.

Magic bars are a combination of different ingredients, layered on top of one another with a crust at the bottom and a can of condensed milk poured over the top, sort of acting as a glue.

My recipe incorporated what I had in my cupboard really – a digestive biscuit base, desiccated coconut, walnuts, chocolate chunks, white choc chips, butterscotch bits and of course the marshmallows. You can get these in mini format nowadays, ideal for this recipe!

You bake these in the oven, and I would recommend tenting the baking tin with foil, as the sugars can burn quite easily. Adding the foil prevents this.

Magic bars - biscuit base, topped with walnuts, chocolate chunks, white chocolate chips, butterscotch bits, desiccated coconut, condensed milk and mini marshmallows.

I made these for our friends Kim and Susan who were visiting us at the weekend. They took some away with them, as well as having some with a cuppy whilst they were here, so I think we can say they were a success!

So what guilty pleasures do you like to snack on? I'd love to know, so I don't feel quite so bad about my mallow/condensed milk habit...

I’ve made a wee video of how I put the magic bars together which you can see above, but here’s how I made them;

print recipe

Mini Mallow Magic Bars
Digestive biscuit crumb, dark chocolate, white chocolate, nuts, butterscotch, coconut, condensed milk goodness!
  • 200 grams digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 113 grams unsalted butter
  • 100 grams chopped walnuts
  • 150 grams dark chocolate chunks
  • 100 grams white chocolate chips
  • 100 grams butterscotch bits, or fudge pieces
  • 100 grams desiccated coconut
  • 75 grams mini marshmallows
  • 1 Can (400g approx) condensed milk
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and line a 9”x13” baking pan with greaseproof paper.Melt the butter in a pan and then add the crushed digestives, stir until combined.Transfer the digestive mix to the baking pan and spread evenly, although you don’t have to press down like you would for a cheesecake base.Scatter the nuts over the digestive mix, then the chocolate chunks, white chocolate chips, butterscotch bits and coconut.Pour the condensed milk evenly over the entire baking pan then top with the mini marshmallows.Place in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. If browning too quickly cover with aluminium foil.Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.Cut into bars.Enjoy!
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 24 bars

Magic bars - biscuit base, topped with walnuts, chocolate chunks, white chocolate chips, butterscotch bits, desiccated coconut, condensed milk and mini marshmallows.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Mocha Cake (or java infused cake with fudgylush choccy frosting)

coffee flavour cake with fudgy chocolate frosting

This is a Mocha Cake, or more accurately Coffee Flavour Cake with Chocolate Frosting. I couldn’t really call it a coffee cake, as that is something which you have with coffee and doesn’t taste of coffee strangely.

This is also a bit of a ‘Wake Cake’ sadly. As you may know, if reading my blog recently, we had cousin Lawrence from Toronto staying with us for a few days. His mother, who was Disneyboi’s aunt, passed away at the end of 2015. Lawrence felt it would be nice to have a little memorial for Auntie Rena whilst he was over, so the Scottish contingent of the family could pay their respects to her.

coffee flavour cake with fudgy chocolate frosting

We held the gathering in our house, on Sunday afternoon, when all of the family could make it. And we had a little spread laid on as well, kindly provided by Lawrence.

However, I wanted to make a cake for the family to have when they were here too. So I decided to come up with this coffee infused layer cake, surrounded by a coating of fudgy chocolate frosting.

coffee flavour cake with fudgy chocolate frosting

The cake is simple to make, but looks and tastes very impressive. I grated on white chocolate for a bit of decoration, but I think that it’s the inside of the cake which is most appealing. I baked two layers, but cut each layer in half, making a four layer cake.

I know not everyone is a fan of coffee flavoured food but it is subtle and really enhances the fudgylush (new word) frosting. I for one am a huge fan of coffee flavour food and I would have added more, but as we were entertaining I wanted everyone to enjoy it. Even those who tried the cake and don’t like the old java were pleasantly satisfied after trying this.

coffee flavour cake with fudgy chocolate frosting

If you love Starbucks then you will love this Mocha Cake! The frosting is adapted from a recipe by good old Martha Stewart.

print recipe

Mocha Cake
Coffee infused cake with fudgy chocolate frosting
  • 300 grams plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 220 grams granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 280 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 80 ml boiling water
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 200 ml milk (any type)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 450 grams icing sugar
  • 100 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
  • to garnish white chocolate
Grease and line two 8” baking tins. Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160C fan).Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.Dissolve the coffee powder in the boiling water and set aside.In a food mixer, beat together 110 grams of the butter and the granulated sugar until and pale a fluffy.Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between. Add the 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and stir through.Add one third of the flour and mix through. Add 80 ml of the milk and stir through.Add another third of the flour and mix through then add the dissolved coffee and stir through.Lastly, add the remaining flour and stir through.Divide the mix equally between the two cake tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the centre.Allow the cakes cool fully and preferably overnight.When the cakes have cooled set about making the frosting.Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder into the bowl of a food mixer and add two teaspoons vanilla, 180 grams butter and 120 ml milk. Beat on high until smooth and creamy.Cut each layer of cake in half two have four discs of cake.Frost each layer, laying on top of one another and then around the sides until coated. Leave some, whilst you chill for an hour.Give a final coating off frosting and decorate with white chocolate if desired.Enjoy!
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 8" cake

coffee flavour cake with fudgy chocolate frosting

I'm entering this cake into this month's Love Cake hosted by Ness at Jibber Jabber UK - the theme is 'I'll Drink To That', so this coffee infused cake is perfect!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Purple Matcha Nanaimo Bars

I’m bringing a touch of Canada to proceedings this week as we have a Canadian relative staying with us, cousin Lawrence from Toronto.

He kindly brought us some coffee over from one of our favourite coffee houses in Canada, Tim Hortons. We love the coffee they sell, but this post is more about tea actually.

Williamson Tea to be exact. They recently sent me some of their antioxidant packed purple matcha recently to try. Williamson have been tea purveyors since 1869, so must know a thing or two about the process.

The tea comes in a lovely wee canister adorned with an elephant, the company’s mascot. They also sent me a bamboo whisk with which to stir the tea as it’s brewing.

It has a lovely pure flavour, quite nutty, which I thought would work well added to some Nanaimo bars. This is the Canadian part, in case you were wondering where I was going with things.

I’ve made Nanaimo bars here on the blog before. As you possibly know, they comprise a biscuit base, filled with coconut, cocoa and nuts. Pecans are traditional, but I had some walnuts in the cupboard and used them here.

To incorporate the matcha, I added it to the creamy custard filling of the bars. Usually this is a mix of custard powder, icing sugar, butter and milk. I added the powder here and it really imparted a delicate tea flavour to the mix.

Finally the bars are finished off with a dark chocolate topping, which I sprinkled crushed coconut chips on top of, to compliment the coconut in the base.

nanaimo bars flavoured with matche purple tea powder

The bars chill in the fridge until ready to eat. My tasters loved them and the subtle purple tea flavour especially.

These are a nice spin on a Canadian classic, and one which has the seal of approval from a true Canadian, Lawrence.

If you get some matcha, green or purple, then I would totally recommend making these bars. The purple matcha I received retails at £24.95 for 30 grams.

Here's how I made them...

print recipe

Matcha Nanaimo Bars
Canadian confection Nanaimo bars with added green tea
  • 113 grams unsalted butter
  • 55 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetned cocoa powder
  • 320 grams digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 90 grams desiccated coconut
  • 65 grams chopped walnuts
  • 56 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 250 grams icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder
  • 1 teaspoon matcha
  • 140 grams dark chocolate (72%)
  • 15 grams unsalted butter
  • 30 grams crushed coconut chips
Line an 8”x8” baking tin with foil and set aside.To make the base , in a bowl, place the 113 grams of butter, sugar, the egg, vanilla and cocoa. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. and gently stir the ingredients until the butter has melted and everything has blended.Remove from the heat and stir in the crushed digestives, coconut and walnuts. Transfer the mix to the baking tin and press down evenly, as firmly as you can. Place the pan in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.To make the filling, combine the 56 grams of softened butter, milk, icing sugar, custard and matcha until it is a smooth spreadable consistency. Add this to the top of the biscuit base and with an off-set spatula spread evenly. Pop into the fridge to set up, for at least 30 minutes.For the topping, melt the dark chocolate and 15 grams of butter together over another bowl, on top a pan of simmering water. Pour the melted chocolate over the chilled filling and sprinkle with coconut chips. Place into the fridge once more and chill the bars for at least another hour before slicing up into squares.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 30 bars approx.

I'm entering this 'bake' into Alphabakes hosted by Ros, The More Than Occasional Baker and this month Caroline at Caroline Makes. The letter this month is T, which stands for Tea in this recipe!

Disclosure Statement: I received the matcha free to review. I was not asked to create a recipe and did not receive payment. Any opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, 11 April 2016

The Beginner’s Guide to Making Awesome Poutine

We have a Canadian house guest coming to stay this week, Disneyboi’s cousin Lawrence from Toronto. Lawrence is quite a character and has led an amazing life. Being born in Broughty Ferry then moving over to Canada at an early age, he remains proud of his Scottish roots. His life in Canada seems very glamorous. Starting out in Montreal, he then found himself in Toronto, where he worked for one of the nation’s most popular TV stations, our equivalent of the BBC.

This week, in honour of Lawrence coming to visit, I am making a couple of Canadian inspired recipes.

Back in 2007, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for which Lawrence worked, ran a TV miniseries entitled 'The Greatest Canadian Invention'. Unsurprisingly, it invited viewers to phone in and vote for the best Canadian inventions of all time. Topping the list were the usual suspects of insulin, the telephone (although we Scots may dispute that strongly!) and the light bulb.

However, sneaking into the back door at number 10 was the nation’s most popular dish – poutine. For the uninitiated, poutine consists of a base of French fries, topped with generous amounts of cheese curds and then smothered in a deliciously thick gravy sauce. For what on the face of it sounds like a simple dish, it’s astounding that this invention, if you can call it that, edged out other innovations such as the alkaline battery, perspex or something I owned in my childhood, the Walkie-Talkie.

Don’t ever make the mistake of telling a Canadian their national dish is nothing more than chips, cheese and gravy, as apparently you’re likely to receive a lengthy tongue-bashing. Similarly, don’t underestimate the nuances which go into making this dish such a tasty and satisfying one. Mess up one of the holy trinity of ingredients and the whole meal is ruined. Montreal, where Lawrence grew up, is home to the finest poutine to be found worldwide, but short of shooting across the Atlantic Ocean to pick some up, here are a few tips on how you can best emulate the Quebecois speciality yourself.

The chips

The French fries constitute the building blocks of the dish. In order to make a really successful poutine, you’ll need your chips to be crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside. They can’t be too fat or too thick, since the gravy needs to be able to infiltrate their layers and permeate the lower ranks.

In order to achieve such perfection yourself, you’ll need to cook the potatoes twice over – once on a low heat to soften up the insides, then a second time on a high heat to crispen up the exterior and attain that extra crunch. Ideally, you’ll freeze in between in order to avoid compromising the interior on the second cook… but really - who has time for that? McCain have done all the hard work for you, cooking their French fries first time round to achieve the pillowy softness inside, so all you need to do is pop them in a pan for a few minutes and voila! Perfect poutine fries every time.

The curds

They say that a poutine which doesn’t use real cheese curds is not a poutine at all. Unfortunately, these can be a little difficult to get hold of outside of Canada, turning this step into potentially the hardest of them all. The cheese section of certain supermarkets, such as Waitrose have them, but Waitrose are rarer than sightings of the Loch Ness monster up here in Scotland, so I had to improvise!

As an emergency substitute, fresh mozzarella doesn’t hold up too badly. Expect to use one whole ball of mozzarella per diner (yes, that is a lot of cheese but I'm imagining you won’t be eating poutine every day) and chop it up into pieces around the size of a 50p piece.  Alternatively, go for a bag of pre-grated mozzarella, which melts beautifully with the heat of the fries and gravy, speaking of which…

The gravy

With the ability to make or break your dish, the gravy is arguably the most important ingredient in a poutine. It needs to be both robust and flavourful enough to contribute an extra oomph to the dish, but not too overpowering that it drowns out the other ingredients.

If you have plenty of time, there’s really no substitute for a good homemade gravy. Ideally you’ll be using stock made from real meat juices, but this is more than likely dependent on whether you’ve cooked a roast meal in the preceding days. If using shop-bought stock, you can still come up with a delicious gravy such as the one described by which doesn’t take too much effort and will complement your poutine beautifully. Just try not to resort to instant gravy! It has the potential to destroy all of your hard work and ruin a perfectly good poutine.

My poutine turned out lovely, just like I tried in Toronto a few years ago, when visiting Lawrence. We hope to be re-visiting him and his lovely wife Emmy later this year for a bit of a special occasion, but I shall keep you up to date about that. But for now, go and enjoy some poutine!

Bon app├ętit!

Disclosure Statement: This is a sponsored post for which I have received renumeration.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Pesto, Sriracha and Mozzarella Palmiers

Pesto Sriracha and Mozzarella Palmiers

This is an unashamedly fast and easy recipe. It’s barely a recipe really!

This was made in a mad dash one Saturday afternoon when family were coming around at night for a bit of a gathering.

We had been to the supermarket and stocked up on staples, such as hummus, crisps, nuts etc. But being me, I wanted to bake something. Palmiers I thought, ideal pastry nibbles with any filling you can think of.

I picked up a few ingredients on the way round which I knew would make this excellent, tasty and simple piece of party food.

I grabbed a sheet of ready rolled puff pastry, a jar of pesto and some grated mozzarella. I knew at home we had sriracha sauce lurking in the cupboard which would go perfectly.

If you haven’t heard of sriracha where have you been? It’s a very very spicy chilli and garlic sauce. Growing in popularity here in the UK, it is one of the biggest condiments in America. It hails from Thailand originally I believe and is recognisable in its red bottles, with a green plastic top.

image source
I get mine in the Chinese supermarket, I add it to chopped tomatoes when having them on toast as a snack. It’s also great over chips instead of ketchup. Anyhoo…

We got home and I unfurled the pastry and slathered on pesto, squeezed sriracha on top and then sprinkled on grated mozzarella.

I folded the pastry sheet over, one short end into the middle and repeated on the on the opposite side, so the two ends meet in the middle. (You could fold up more if you wanted, for a more intricate swirl).

I then folded the two folded halves together so it was a big long sausage shape which I cut into one inch rounds. I placed the cut pieces on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper, with the ingredients facing up.

I let them chill in the fridge for half an hour whilst I pre-heated the oven to 200C (180C fan).

I placed them in the oven for about 15 minutes, until they became puffed and golden.

Pesto Sriracha and Mozzarella Palmiers

I removed them from the oven, leaving them to cool, before removing with a fish slice.

These really went down a storm at the family gathering, and they will do at your next shindig too if you give them a try!

Pesto Sriracha and Mozzarella Palmiers

(I’ve described how to make them above, so I won’t give you a proper recipe below. Measurements of the ingredients are not exact, suffice to say one sheet of pastry yielded about 15 palmiers. The pesto was slathered on, not too thick that it would ooze and the same for the cheese. Sriracha is to taste, but remember this is one HOT sauce)….