Monday, October 16, 2017

Thoughts During a Half Marathon

I have a feeling that the majority of people who read this blog are my close friends and family so you probably already saw this because I emailed it to you in thanks for support my recent half marathon for Cancer Research UK. But in case I'm pleasantly surprised (or you didn't donate but are still a friend), I recently ran a half marathon for Cancer Research UK! And it was tough!! It was my third half so maybe I thought I had this down and went into it a little too prepared to kick butt and less mentally prepared to get through it. Either way, here is a summary of what it feels like as told by the stages of grief:
  1. Denial- Miles 1-4 when you're in denial about how difficult this is going to be. When you're still surrounded by people chatting and wearing bells and tutus, excitedly starting this journey. Crushing your pace and feeling on top of the world like "I've so got this, acing it, it's going to be so easy".
  2. Anger- Miles 5-7 when you're mad at your past denying self for running too fast and now you have to conquer the one hill on the course. Or was that the hill back there? Is there another hill?? Why didn't you take the snacks they were handing out? Why didn't you go to the bathroom one last time? Why did you even sign up for this?? You crazy fool. 
  3. Bargaining- Mile 8-10 when you're just trying to get from one mile marker to the next. If you make it to the mile 9 sign, then you can take another snack. If you make it to the mile 10 marker, your mind will shut down and your body will just take over and you will wake up at the finish line. If you finish this race, you never have to run again.
  4. Depression- Mile 11-12 when you know you aren't going to make it, you're going to be on this course for hours and hours and your spectators will wonder where you are. When you regret sharing your bib number and tracking link with anyone. When you have the thought "I'm never running again. Period". When you ask part way through mile 12 how much further and are told "you're not far". Lies. So far. 
  5. Acceptance- Mile 13 when you realize you are going to make it after all and it doesn't matter if it's not your best time, you made it and someone still gets a video of you actually running as proof. When you realize you can have a burger, sweet potato fries, a beer, cookie, hot chocolate, macaroni and cheese and STILL not make up the calories you just burned. When you accept this race wasn't for you anyways and that's something to be proud of. 
So while I am currently still in the "I'm never running again" mindset, I'm sure that will pass soon enough. And after that comes "okay, I'll run again but I'm never running a half marathon again" which I'm sure will also pass. We shall see....

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Great British Bake-Off Week 4: Millionaire Shortbread

We'll get back to Week 3, the terrifying bread week, at a later date. My efforts to make bread have not been very successful, fail proving! So I'm taking it to the pros, more to come.

Something I do know and enjoy, unlike Prue, are sweet things! I'm not sure you should confess to not liking sweet things when you're the judge on a BAKING show. Just sayin'.

Anyways, a friend of mine makes something similar to this shortbread but it uses crackers and some peanut butter chips instead. So it's a low maintenance version of this and it's amazing. But I'm also sworn to secrecy so I'll do the British version instead. This isn't really a common thing in the US but shortbread is a known, as are caramel and chocolate, just as separate entities.

I've made caramel once before and learned the hard way, don't poke the hot caramel. Like for real, even when it's out of the pan and is spilled on your counter, it's not safe. Blistering will happen. Much pain and sorrow WILL HAPPEN. Just don't do it, okay? Okay.

In theory, this is a simple recipe. The shortbread consists of cubed butter (no softening required!), flour and sugar which is mixed together by hand and then pressed into a square baking tin. Once it is browned, you can add the caramel which is just melted butter, golden syrup and condensed milk. And once the caramel is set and cooled, you just add melted chocolate. Simple.

But when the caramel ingredients are melting and you take a moment to enjoy the sunset and then realize you've left the caramel unattended and even though it's supposed to boil, it's somehow burnt a bit and you can tell from stirring that you've burnt the pan as well--well, then it becomes more complicated.

Never fear though, the caramel was salvaged. If there's one thing I learned from Bake Off, you don't throw the whole baked Alaska out with the soft ice cream, ammiright? True fans know what I'm talking about. So I used the caramel anyways which had the nice flavor of toasted marshmallow. The only problem was it never fully set, it stayed as a thick goo. So when I cut the squares, it became a caramel sandwich which oozed out.

They were still tasty and they were still mass consumed by my colleagues as well. I brought them in to raise funds for a charity half marathon I'm running in less than 2 weeks! So maybe they ate them out of charity, twice over.

Recipe
Crust

  • 225g plain flour
  • 175g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 75g sugar
  1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour and cubed butter until crumbly. Alternatively, mix by hand in a medium bowl until the butter is well incorporated and the mixture is crumbly.
  2. Add the sugar and mix to combine.
  3. In a parchment lined square baking tin, dump the dough and press evenly to fill the pan.
  4. Bake in the oven at 150C (300F) for 15-30 minutes until slightly browned.
  5. Allow to cool before adding the caramel.

Caramel

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 379g condensed milk
  • 100g golden syrup
  1. In a saucepan, melt the butter, milk and golden syrup together.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, until it is a golden brown and has thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  4. Once cooled, pour the caramel over the shortbread, still in the baking tin. Allow the caramel to cool and set completely before adding the chocolate layer.

Chocolate

  • 350g dark chocolate
  1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate.
  2. Pour on top of the caramel.
  3. Allow to set before cutting into squares. The easiest way to do this is to lift the mass out of the tin by the parchment paper edges and cut on a cutting board (rather than cutting in the tin).



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Great British Bake Off - Week 2: Biscuits

Here in good ole England, biscuits are cookies and cookies are not a thing. But biscuits are not the exact same thing as cookies in the US, they tend to be harder and crispier, ideal for tea dunking. Everything I've learned about biscuits, I've learned from Great British Bake Off. For example:

  1. Biscuits must not be soft, they are meant to be softened by a cupper (that's what the local kids call cup of tea). 
  2. Two is the number of thine dunking, no more, no less. Three dunkings is right out! And also catastrophic as the biscuit will pull a Titanic, break in half and be lost to the deep depths of your tea.
  3. Biscotti means twice-baked. 10 points to Gryffindor (the name of my next pub quiz team, for sure)! But actually, that did win my trivia team points in a food-themed quiz. 
  4. I'll never be able to make biscuits as pretty as Biscuiteers (unless I take their icing course where I assume I will become an icing wizard) so I'll just take pictures and stalk them on Instagram instead. 
    1. I think gingerbread houses could really take some lessons from the biscuit show stoppers from last week's episode, like for real. Those were masterful and I can barely get a ready-made kit to frost together long enough to be the centrepiece of a Christmas spread.
    Anyone have a strong biscuit recipe? I may just stick to gingersnaps until then! 

    Tuesday, September 5, 2017

    Great British Bake Off - Week 1: Swiss Rolls

    It was at the end of the Great British Bake Off last year that I thought it would be cool to go along with their weekly themes and I realized I'd have to wait a full year to implement this idea. But here we are; GBBO may be on a new channel and I don't know anyone's name except Paul Hollywood but we're moving forward with this weekly challenge.

    The first week's theme was cake. I've learned a bit more about the preparation for the different rounds and I think I could maaaaybe get through the first two challenges but holy guacamole, show stoppers. Definite weak spot. Initially I was going to just make a cake and be all sorted. But instead, I opted to go for the technical challenge.



    I made a yule log a couple years ago (I shudder as I link you to that ancient post with terrible photography and lighting...not that I've improved much) and this seemed very similar, just smaller. The commercialized version of this is a ho ho in the US so there's that too.

    These would definitely not pass the criticism of the bake off judges as they are definitely not symmetrical although they do have a nice swirl, in my amateur opinion. I also just couldn't bring myself to make more dirty dishes and melt white chocolate for the drizzle. We'll live.

    Other things to keep in mind:
    • Yes, you need parchment paper even if it means going back into the store and waiting in line again
    • Yes, the egg whites will eventually become stiff peaks even if you've been beating them for 10 minutes already and think it will never happen
    • Yes, you need a bigger bowl
    • Yes, you can lose some of the crunchy edges to make the cake easier to roll
    • No, the world won't end if there's no white chocolate drizzle

    Recipe 
    from GBBO website

    Cake
    • 30g butter, melted (keep the wrapper for greasing)
    • 60g cocoa powder
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 4 Tablespoon boiling water
    • 6 large eggs, separated
    • 150g sugar (divided into 100g and 50g)
    Filling
    • 150g butter, softened
    • 300g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
    • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract (or not if you think it will taste like toothpaste)
    Topping
    • 200g plain chocolate
    • 200g milk chocolate
    • 100g white chocolate (optional)
    1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a deep baking dish (or jelly pan or brownie pan, just don't fill it all the way up) with butter and parchment paper. Also grease the parchment paper.
    2. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter with the cocoa powder, boiling water and vanilla.
    3. In a medium bowl, beat together the egg yolks and 100g of sugar until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat until incorporated.
    4. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites for eternity until stiff peaks form. The egg whites need room to expand and become fluffy. Add the 50g of sugar after the peaks form, whisking until combined.
    5. Mix 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture to increase the volume and loosen the cake mix. Fold in the remaining egg whites until incorporated.
    6. Pour the cake mix into the prepared pans (if you only had one pan, use half the mixture and then repeat for the second round). The cake mix shouldn't spread too much on its own so spread it evenly in the pan. The mix will rise during baking but then settle back in so will be relatively thin and as deep as you pour it.
    7. Bake until firm, 15-20 minutes.
    8. Allow the cake to cool completely before doing the filling and rolling.
    9. For the filling, beat together the butter, icing sugar and peppermint until fluffy.
    10. Once cooled, place the cakes on a cutting board or other clean surface. Carefully peel back the parchment paper and discard.
    11. Spread the filling evenly across the cakes. 
    12. Gently roll the cake from the short end 2-3 times, until you reach the middle. Repeat on the other side of the cake so one sheet makes two rolls.
    13. Cut the cake rolls where the two sides meet. Cut the rolls into even sections so you have 6 mini rolls per pan.
    14. Allow the rolls to set while you prepare the chocolate topping by melting the plain and milk chocolate together in a double boiler.
    15. Pour the chocolate over the rolls to coat. It's neatest to do this on a cooling rack with a tray beneath to catch the excess chocolate.
    16. Lastly, melt the white chocolate on its own and pour into a piping bag (or ziploc bag with the corner cut off). Drizzle each roll with the white chocolate.
    17. Enjoy! And put your feet up because this is a lot of steps. 




    Monday, September 4, 2017

    Summer Reading List

    Do you remember when you were a kid how you would get a suggested summer reading list? And then you would get back to school and be like 'look how many books I read this summer! Give me extra credit'. No? Just me? Cool story, bro.

    Typically people release summer reading lists at the start of the summer but doesn't a book in any other season prove to be as enjoyable? I have a running list of books on my phone so when I'm in a store, I usually add to it or when I'm done reading something I know what to pick up. But my list never seems to get shorter and often I'll finish a book and find it wasn't on my list after all. Always reading. Here's what I read this summer:

    1. Notes from a Blue Bike (Tsh Oxenreider) - This sounded very promising and was recommended by a blogger I follow. Former expat moves back to the US with her family and then realizes 'hey, travelling/living abroad and a family are not mutually exclusive'. This was more an autobiography of moving around and providing tips on how to pursue living abroad, homeschooling, sustainable food sources etc. when you have a family. So not entirely relatable for my stage of life but the big take-away for me was you make what works for you work for you, there's no 'right' way which is a strong message. She also has a blog and other books which I might read at some point.

    2. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood) - Like everyone else, I heard about this after the Hulu series launched. Knowing nothing about it, I thought it was a historical drama because of the picture I saw of Elizabeth Moss from the show where she had on a bonnet and long dress. False. This is one of those 'not too distant futures' of a dystopian society. Couldn't put it down, it's SO GOOD.

    3. Commonwealth (Ann Patchett) - This book and the next two were impulse purchases. I'd heard of this book and was waiting for a friend in a book shop (danger zone!). I wasn't intending on buying anything but they had a sale shelf and I picked up a book, read the back and as soon as I could smell that new book smell, I was hooked. And going home with three books. This one follows a mish-mash of siblings (two families broken up by an affair and divorce then smushed together by remarriage and 6 step-siblings between them) from childhood into adulthood. Lots of changes in perspective and jumps in time which I quite enjoy. I also realized I'd read State of Wonder by the same author which was similarly amazing.

    4. Proud to Be a Mammal (Czeslaw Milosz) - One of the sale books, this one was selected solely because it's by a Polish author. Turns out that he is like THE Polish author, well done. After my trip to Poland a couple months ago, I've felt like I should support my heritage more, starting by being able to name one Polish author. This is actually a collection of his short stories and essays so I've been reading it in conjunction with other books.

    5. All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)- This is one of those books eeeeeveryone was reading last year but I just now picked it up at a friend's moving sale. In the same vein as Sarah's Key and The Nightingale (both excellent options, btw), this follows multiple characters during the lead up to and duration of World War II, primarily in France but also in Germany. The main character is a young French girl who is blind and living in Paris when the war breaks out. Similarly, her counterpart in Germany is a young orphan boy with big dreams about being an inventor before getting swept up in the war. Needless to say, I couldn't put this down and read all 500+ pages in about 3 days. It was fantastic.

    6. The Sellout (Paul Beatty) - There was a guy I worked with who would spend his lunch break happily reading. Also was happy for us to interrupt him and chat over lunch so that was nice. I used to read at lunch in school but got made fun of for it sooo then I stopped. Now I've started again so take that middle school bullies! Anyways, aforementioned coworker was reading this once and so I thought I would give it a go. Currently in progress, it's definitely different from other book formats and subjects I've read before.

    7. Thank You for Being Late (Tom Friedman) - My dad gave me this book for my birthday (which is great because books!). The last Friedman book I read was The World Is Flat back when the internet was still ramping up to flatten the world. I think it's thoroughly and officially a plane again. To be read in the near future (sorry, dad).

    What book recommendations do you have? Do you read different kinds of books in the summer versus fall versus winter? Is winter a more serious book reading season while summer is more beach reads that keep things light and carefree? Thoughts. Words. Feels. 

    Wednesday, August 30, 2017

    Affogato

    There's a cafe around the corner from my flat that I pass on the bus every day but have never been into before. This weekend, that all changed. It was nice and sunny out and I'm always looking for iced coffee so I wandered in and everyone was so friendly! I asked them if they had any cold coffee drinks and I swear, I thought they were going to break out into a coordinated dance routine.

    Apparently one of the baristas was just dying to make an affogato. How has this not become everyone's favorite coffee drink?? IT'S ICE CREAM!!! And espresso but ICE CREAM!! How do you take your coffee? As ice cream. Game changer.

     
    This is probably the most ridiculous recipe because guess what? All you do is pour a shot of espresso over a scoop of ice cream and it's officially a coffee beverage. Done. Sold. I may or may not have had some before writing this post.

    Recipe
    • 1 scoop of ice cream (traditionally vanilla, also tasty with salted caramel or chocolate)
    • 1 shot of espresso (or two, you are your own person)
    1. Make shot(s) of espresso.
    2. Place scoop of ice cream in a mug, bowl or other vessel.
    3. Pour shot(s) of espresso over ice cream.
    4. Consume and be happy that you're a grown up having ice cream for coffee. 

    Wednesday, July 12, 2017

    Poland: More Than Pierogis

    Back in May, I took my first trip to Poland. We were going as a family quest for information so I didn't have a huge itinerary or bucket list. Obviously I was planning to eat a lot of pierogis but I was not prepared for the level of food Poland has to offer! Not just the variety of traditional food but also quantities. There were numerous occasions where we dined with family and it was just course after course of homemade dishes that I'd never heard of! The below is a summary of the more traditional ones (I think...) which I hope to try and make one day.

    1. Pierogis- Okay, yes, there is more than just pierogis in Poland but come on! Pierogis! They come in all kinds of varieties including fruit! I'd never had blueberry pierogis before but I will certainly be having them again.



    2. Babka- This is a kind of cake which is open to interpretation. Sometimes it's a desserty cake and sweet but the variety I found more often was a potato babka. It looks like a loaf of mashed potatoes so thick, you can slice it like bread. And oh so greasy and delicious.

    3. Bigos- In my brain space, I often mix this up with babka because it starts with a 'b' too. Bigos though is a saurkraut dish with meat. I don't actually like saurkraut but I love bigos. The saurkraut is soft and not sharply fermented like the saurkraut I'm used to. Mixed with kilbasa or beef, it becomes a hearty stew, minus the broth (sometimes called Hunter's Stew which I've had in the US).

    4. Goulash- Now this is a stew. Again, there are a number of ways to make this but it reminds me of chilli but with an eastern European flare. In my mind, it's like the Polish equivalent to American chilli. 

    5. Ice Cream- Fine, Poland didn't invent ice cream but they love it. Ice cream everywhere. Sometimes it's more like gelato but they have the home-churned variety as well. Perfect for the hot summer days of sun! We went to Bubble Waffle which has locations all over the world so check it out.

    Monday, July 10, 2017

    City Guide: Calgary

    Almost every year since graduation, my college/uni friends and I have done a summer trip together. Always somewhere new and always a mix of outdoorsy and city things. We've been all over the west coast of the US from LA to Vancouver, Puerto Rico, North Carolina and now Calgary, Canada. Outdoor activities include hiking, kayaking, or jet skiing (one time it was cliff jumping) while our city activities keep us cultured so we go to museums or well-known restaurants.

    We stayed at a place half-way between Calgary and Banff National Park so we could easily go from our active selves to our city selves and in between, we cooked a lot of meat and ate a lot of eggs. Shopping for 8 people is tough and there was a point where we had 8 dozen eggs, 8 loaves of bread and an $8,000 cucumber (okay, they refunded us $7,998 for that one). Somehow, I escaped dinner duties but managed to make a whole lotta pancakes, french toast (see 8 loaves of bread comment) and cinnamon rolls throughout the week.

    Here are some of the activity highlights I would recommend if you're planning a tip to Calgary anytime soon:

    1. Lake Louise- When deciding where to go, we get very scientific and make a survey of places to go. The survey results usually end up being ignored but someone suggested Lake Louise and we said 'sounds great!'. This is what brought us to Canada. We did the Plain of Six Glaciers trail which goes around the aqua lake and up into the mountains. This was an all day hike but not extremely steep so doable for beginners but bring lots of water! At the end of June, there was a bit of snow across the path so prepare yourselves for that as well. But! You are rewarded by an amazing little tea house (appropriately called The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House) at the top of the mountain. They don't have running water, bottled water is heli-dropped to them, but their cakes are delicious.

     
    2. Sulphur Mountain- This was a more difficult climb which was mostly comprised of switchbacks. It's advised to allow 2-3 hours for this hike so not as long as Lake Louise but there's also a gondola you can take up (and/or down) the mountain instead. This is attaction is part of a larger attraction with a hot springs spa (highly recommended) and cave tour. The view of the Canadian Rockies can't be beat and we even had a couple mountain goats cross our paths. If that's not a reason to bust into Julie Andrews songs, I don't know what is.

     
    3. Banff Canoe Club- Initially we were looking at kayaking/canoeing on Lake Louise but having done the hike already, we opted for something new and found this kayaking club right in Banff which was pretty cost effective and allowed us to paddle around a creek and then a calm lake surrounded by mountains (okay, and one highway). The staff were super friendly, even if they did accidentally ring us up for 450 boats (there's a theme here with the over-charging). Definitely bring bug spray, the swarms are legit.

     
    4. Skyline Luge- Moving away from the hiking genre of activities, this luge is basically real-life Mario Kart in Calgary's Olympic park. You take a chair lift to the top, get a safety demonstration and away you go! While I don't think they'd let you tie balloons to the cars, Mario noises are not discouraged...

     
    5. Ice Cream- No hike is complete without a post-hike milkshake. Or at least that's our motto. We went to Old School Ice Cream after our first day of hiking and proceeded to go there after every one of our hikes. Luckily, the staff changed every day so they don't seem to have noticed how much ice cream we ate here. They are cash only though but accept USD at a 1:1 conversion rate.

     
    6. Heritage Park- I was sceptical about this one but it turned out to be really fun! It's basically a recreation of Canada through the ages so important historical figures' homes are rebuilt, there's an old main street with a working post office and general store as well as small roller coasters. A steam boat cruise is included in admission and takes you around the reservoir with a great view of downtown Calgary.


    7. Maple Lattes- We happened to be in Calgary for Canada Day, their 150th in fact! As if everything wasn't maple leaf forever already, we found Rosso's to have a maple latte on special. Who knows if this is a full-time deal or not but over ice and it was a perfect hint of Canadian pride without being overly sweet. They're also known for their coffee quality so worth a trip for straight up coffee as well.

     

    8. More Ice Cream- Made by Marcus in Calgary was our final ice cream stop of the trip. They had only a few flavors but also unique sundaes (think hand toasted marshmallows and macaron topping) that were  made with soft serve. Milkshakes and boozy flavours were also in order.

     

    9. Calgary Farmer's Market- Literally our last stop before the airport, we initially went to this market looking for Jelly doughnuts shop but it was full of so many other places to eat and stock up on maple things (and crafts), we almost lost track of our mission. But in the end, Jelly doughnuts was amazing (maple bacon doughnut, highly recommended) and should also be visited.

     
    And because 10 is better than 9:

    10. Nature- In general, just embrace the amazing scenery of mountains, sky and trees. You're bound to see a rainbow (or two!) after one of the many flash mountain storms and we even caught a meteor shower one night.

     


    Wednesday, June 21, 2017

    BakedIn: Chocolate Eclairs

    A couple months ago I shared my first BakedIn experience, a baking prep service that friends gave me for my birthday. The subscription service gives you the non-perishable ingredients, special equipment and instructions, you provide the things like eggs and milk. They also provided bonus salted caramel marshmallows which I promptly ate, two at a time.

    I was intimidated to try making these eclairs after the fail-forward attempt at whoopie pies. This was a whopping 4 chef hats out of 5, an indication of difficulty, and required a multi-phase approach. Much more intimidating than the muffin mix still waiting to be baked.

    So after the recent London Bridge attacks, I was at home thinking about how I didn't want to leave my home and how much time I spend in Borough Market and just generally feeling awful about the world. So these eclairs kept my frantic mind busy, following logical steps and let me escape the illogical world without answers for just a bit.

    Apparently eclairs are made with choux pastry! It sounds fancy, it's also light and fluffy. Butter and milk are boiled together, flour is stirred in and the dough sticks together. If I could pipe these all over again, I would cut a bigger piece of the piping bag off and make big eclairs. As it were, I treated the piping bag like I was going to pipe icing and made a bunch of mini eclairs. Still delicious but much more time-consuming.

    Tray by tray, these are baked. Once all the baking was done, I chilled while the eclairs chilled before making the cream filling. I love whipping cream because it's so dang satisfying to just go from cream, cream, cream, oh snap we have whipped stuff! Piping the cream into the eclairs was messy but doable. In theory, the eclair shell is fluffy and pretty hollow but it's easier to pipe into each end separately instead of hoping the filling makes its way through the whole thing.

    And at long last, the decoration! At this point, I got lazy and decided to forgo the caramel topping and just melt the chocolate and ice the eclairs in their classic chocolate glory. And sprinkles because why not?!

    I must say, I'm quite proud of myself for these and someone even told me I should actually quit my day job and become a baker. I'll take it! And a bunch of eclairs, please!




    Recipe
    Eclairs (Choux Pastry)
    • 120ml milk
    • 120ml water
    • 100g unsalted butter
    • 5g sugar
    • 3g salt
    • 150g plain flour
    • 5 eggs (4 for the dough, 1 for an egg wash)
    Whipped Filling
    • 360ml double cream
    • 20g powdered sugar (icing sugar)
    Chocolate Frosting
    • 100g milk chocolate
    • 60ml double cream
    1. Put milk, water, butter, salt and sugar into a saucepan over low heat and heat until the butter is melted.
    2. Bring the mixture to a boil and then immediately remove from heat. Stir in the flour, all at once, and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. 
    3. Return the flour-butter mixture to heat and warm for about 1 minute until the mixture is slightly dryer. 
    4. Remove the pan from heat and pour into a large bowl.
    5. Add the eggs (just 4 of them), one at a time, to the dough and mix with a wooden spoon until the pastry is smooth.
    6. Preheat the oven to 200C (350F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    7. While the choux pastry (yup, you just made choux pastry!) is still warm, fill a piping bag (or a ziplock bag and you can cut a corner off) with teh dough. Clip the corner of the bag, narrow to make small eclairs and wide for larger ones.
    8. Pipe the pastry onto the baking sheet. You can do either mini eclairs or full size. These won't expand much, just puff up so you can put them about 1/2 inch apart.
    9. Make an egg wash by beating the last egg in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the piped eclairs with the wash to ensure a nice golden finish.
    10. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp and golden.
    11. Place the eclair shells on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Repeat piping until all the choux pastry is finished.
    12. While the eclairs bake, combine the milk chocolate and 60ml of cream in a saucepan. Heat until the chocolate is melted and transfer to a bowl. Cool in the fridge for 15 minutes.
    13. Once the eclairs are cool, whip the double cream and powdered sugar together using an electric mixer. Whip until the cream is thick.
    14. Pour the whipped topping into a piping bag (or ziplock bag, see above tip!).
    15. Cut a small slit in the side of the eclairs. I found it best to make two slits, top and bottom. Pipe the cream into the eclairs being careful not to burst the pastry. Continue until all the eclairs are filled.
    16. Final step! Spoon the melted chocolate mixture over the eclairs to cover. You could drizzle white chocolate or sprinkles on top for extra pizzazz! 


    Monday, May 15, 2017

    Red Lentil and Vegetable Soup

    Still May, still cold. This shift in cold weather has meant those pesky winter colds and coughs are back and I have fallen victim to the sore throat and chest cough that comes with it. As a result, all the tea and soup!

    This recipe come from the Oh She Glows cookbook which I'm slowly but surely cooking my way through. I've previously made the curry and cauliflower stew and peanut vegetable stew which were amazing so was excited to try something new, especially when it's called 'on the mend soup'. Just what I need.

     
    The onion and garlic are sauteed until translucent. Spices and all the peppers are added: cumin, cayenne, paprika and chilli powder. So much spice, it's great. Allow the spices to simmer a bit before adding the vegetable broth (you could use chicken broth too if you're not going veggie), diced tomatoes, red lentils, and carrots.

    All the work is done now, allow the soup to come to a boil and then simmer until the lentils are cooked through. The final stage is adding some chopped kale or spinach while the soup is still hot. The leaves will wilt but not overcook.

     
    While I hope you enjoy this soup, I think I hope more that you're already warm and enjoying iced coffee in the sun.

    Recipe

    • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
    • 1 sweet onion, chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne peper
    • 5-6 cups vegetable broth
    • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
    • 1 cup of carrots, chopped
    • 1 cup red lentils, uncooked
    • 2 cup chopped spinach or kale
    1. In a large pot, heat the coconut oil. Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.
    2. Add the spices and celery. Cook for another 5 minutes.
    3. Add the broth, carrots and red lentils. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
    4. Cook until the carrots are soft and the lentils are cooked.
    5. Stir in the spinach (or kale) while the soup is still hot so it wilts but doesn't overcook. 
    6. Enjoy not on a warm spring day but only when it's grey and raining. 

    Thursday, May 11, 2017

    Cabbage and Sausage Stew

    I am not a cabbage fan. I never had a cabbage patch doll and I don't like cabbage stews. I'm a terrible Pole. But I'm coming around to it.

    Over the holidays (yes, the Christmas holidays all those moons ago), my mom made a cabbage stew that actually wasn't the terrible soggy lettuce I expected from cabbage (not a reflection of my mom's cooking). I'm also not a huge leek fan, not sure of their purpose but let's give them a go. Browned sausage and root vegetables really made this a hearty and warming stew.

    And even though it's MAY, it's freezing by British standards so yes, we're talking about stew. We start by browning the sausage in a soup pot with a little bit of oil to keep them from sticking to the pan. This is the basis of our flavoring.

    Once the sausage is browned, remove from the pan and cut into bite-sized chunks. Return to the pan and add the broth along with chopped carrots. Carrots will take the longest to cook so we give them a head start. Next, add some great northern beans (drained) and the cabbage leaves and leeks, roughly chopped.

    Recipe
    • Olive oil
    • 6 chicken sausages (I used spicy ones but you can use plain if desired)
    • 1 small head of cabbage, chopped
    • 2 cup carrots, chopped
    • 2 leak, chopped
    • 1 14 oz. can of white beans (cannellini or Great Northern)
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
    • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
    1. In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil. Brown the chicken sausages until all sides are light brown.
    2. Remove the chicken sausages and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return to the pan.
    3. Add the cabbage, carrots and leaks. Saute with the sausage for about 5 minutes.
    4. Pour in the broth. Stir in the seasonings and tomato paste.
    5. Stir in the beans.
    6. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer until the vegetables are soft (30-40 minutes).
    7. Eat with some hearty bread or you can freeze this soup for a rainy day!







    Monday, April 24, 2017

    Coffee Cake Muffins

    Contrary to its name, coffee cake doesn't actually have coffee in it. My guess is it's named this way because you serve it with coffee. My Italian flatmate was very confused when I was explaining coffee cake didn't taste like coffee, she said they call tiramisu coffee cake. We just call tiramisu, tiramisu.

    So here we have a cinnamon cake with almonds and thus coffee cake--muffins. This comes from Joy the Baker's new cookbook Overeasy. It's entirely devoted to brunch: baked goods, entrees, beverages, everything to throw a great brunch. It felt wrong to sit inside my flat, on my couch and flip through the pages of this cookbook. It felt like it's meant to be read in the quiet early morning hours out on a porch with a cup of coffee. All I wanted to do was live in a bungalow and throw a fancy brunch with friends. A dream for another day.

     
    Crumble is pretty standard across the board: flour, sugar, cinnamon, cold butter. Mix together to make--crumbly.

    We're using my favorite browned (nee melted) butter to make these muffins. No planning for softening required. Sour cream is also used instead of milk, giving an extra spongy and delicious texture to these muffins.

     
    After browning the butter, it is whisked together with the sour cream, egg and egg yolk. If you have vanilla extract, now's the time to add that. I ran out and was going to skip it (scandalous!) but my flatmate had this combo vanilla-baking powder thing I tried instead.

     
    In a separate bowl, mix together your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt) before adding to the butter mixture to form a nice, thick batter.

    Now, some assembly is required: muffin batter followed by crumble topping followed by almonds. Easy peasy. Bake until golden brown and cooked through.

     
    Enjoy on your perfect porch/patio/deck/fire escape with a cup of coffee and you're good to go!


    Recipe
    Crumble
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, cubed
    1. In a medium bowl, mix togethr the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
    2. Cut in the cubed butter with a knife or pastry cutter. You can also use your hands to mix until it's crumbly. 
    3. Set aside for later.
    Muffins
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) browned butter
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 3/4 cup flour
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/3 cup roasted almonds, chopped for topping
    1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin and set aside (in total, this made around 15 muffins).
    2. In a small sauce pan, brown the butter. Even once the butter is melted, continue to heat as it crackles and the water cooks out. Remove from heat once it's changed in color to a darker yellow, crackles less and smells nutty.
    3. In a large bowl, mix together the sour cream (you could substitute for Greek yogurt if you prefer), egg, egg yolk, vanilla and browned butter (slightly cooled).
    4. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. 
    5. Pour the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until no flour is visible.
    6. Assembly time! Spoon the muffin mixture into your prepared pan, filling each cup about half way.
    7. Add a spoonful of crumble topping to each muffin cup. Use a knife to mix and swirl the crumble into the muffin.
    8. Lastly, top with the toasted almonds.
    9. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until set and browned on top. 

    Thursday, April 20, 2017

    BakedIn: Whoopie Pies

    Because my friends are awesome, they gifted me a subscription to BakedIn for my birthday last month. Similar to Blue Apron, it's a service that sends you all the ingredients to your door for a specific recipe. Everything is pre-measured and all you have to do is provide the perishable stuff like eggs and butter.

    Having moved from Boston, it seemed especially fitting that the first recipe was for whoopie pies, a cream-filled cookie sandwich. I was also pretty excited by the butter ruler they included for easy butter measuring, my long-term struggle when baking in grams.

    Ultimately, these didn't turn into whoppie pies but just cookies. The chocolate filling came out too thick to really be glue for a sandwich but was tasty nonetheless. So I shamelessly passed these off as cookies, no mistakes here! Until someone asked me for the recipe and I cracked under the pressure. So here's the recipe for the cookies but if you have a solid filling recipe in your arsenal, sandwich away!

    BakedIn itself was amazing. The box is narrow so it will fit through a letter slot and having everything pre-measured made it all a lot simpler. Even so, they tell you the measurements of each ingredient so you can replicate without the pre-measured bags.

    Recipe
    •         110g soft butter
    •         50g caster sugar
    •         100g light brown sugar
    •         60g cocoa powder
    •         260g plain flour
    •         ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    •         ¼ teaspoon baking powder
    •         1/8 teaspoon salt
    •         ¼ teaspoon vanilla
    •         1 egg
    •         40mL of milk
    1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and caster sugar. Add the egg, vanilla, cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
    3. Add the milk and mix until the mixture becomes firm (you can add more milk if it’s too crumbly). You can use your hands to mix as well.
    4.  Roll the dough into a log and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 20 minutes.
    5. Break the dough into small pieces and roll into munchkin-size balls. Place about one inch apart on the baking sheet (they don’t flatten out much so you can press them into discs for more cookie-like shapes).
    6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set. Repeat for all dough.

    Tuesday, April 18, 2017

    Oatmeal Spice Muffins

    Let's take a breakfast staple and throw it into a muffin. I've seen french toast muffins and pancake syrup muffins, probably bacon muffins, so why not oatmeal muffins? A nice compact way to get your oats for the day. You can easily season these with your favorite oatmeal toppings like blueberries or extra cinnamon or add some jam or nutella.

     
    The only preplanning needed here is allowing the oats to soak in the buttermilk for about 30 minutes. While they soak, you can gather your ingredients and preheat the oven (400F, line the muffin pan too!). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

     
    Once the oats have soaked up the buttermilk, add the eggs and brown sugar to the bowl and mix until combined. The batter so far will be very thick. Mix in the melted butter and vanilla, followed by the flour mixture. If you're adding any dried fruit or chocolate chips, now would be the time to fold 'em in.

     
    Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling half way. Bake until golden on top and cooked through.

     
    The verdict was these were more like scone muffins than muffin muffins but I'll take it! We are in England, after all.


    Recipe

    • 2 cups rolled oats
    • 2 cups buttermilk
    • 2 cups flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1.  Preheat the oven to 400F and line a muffin tin with paper liners (or grease like I did because I was fresh out of liners).
    2. In a large bowl, combine the oats and buttermilk. Allow to sit for 30-60 minutes until the oats have soaked up the milk.
    3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. 
    4. Once the oats have soaked, add the eggs and brown sugar, mixing to combine. Next, stir in the melted butter and vanilla. 
    5. Add the flour mixture to the oats mixture and stir until no flour is visible. The batter will be very thick from the oats.
    6. Add any remaining fixins you'd like in the muffins before spooning the batter into the pan, filling a little over half-way.
    7. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown on top and cooked through. 
    8. Enjoy with some jam or nutella, like a scone, or plain. 

    Monday, April 3, 2017

    Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

    Clearly I have a lemon problem. I love lemons. I love yellow. And I love muffins. And if all of those things are baked together into one format, plus poppyseeds, sign me up for lots of 'em. I made orange poppyseed muffins as the inaugural muffin of muffin Monday in the UK but my fav is lemon poppyseed. I also have a large bag of poppyseeds that need to be used up.

     
    The thing about muffin recipes, and most easy bake items, is they follow the same order of operations. Dry ingredients in large bowl, wet ingredients in small bowl, mix together, fold in bonus items, spoon out batter, bake and eat. Easy peasy.

     

    So in this case, our bonus items are lemon zest and poppyseeds. Lemon zest (zest in general) is very strong and a little goes a long way. The one down side to zest is the actual zesting. Many a knuckle skin has been lost to an overzealous zesting and there's a whole graveyard for sponges that died trying to clean the graters. But I've found that a bottle brush (like for baby bottles) is perfect for cleaning a zester! Pro tip, you're welcome.



    At any rate, the zest is added to the sugar and poppyseeds are folded in last. An all around team effort.

     

    Recipe

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 cup milk
    • 2/3 cup refined sugar (or light brown sugar)
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 1/2 Tablespoons poppyseeds
    • 1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
    1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Prepare the muffin pan and set aside.
    2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
    3. In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, milk, eggs and vanilla with the sugar and lemon zest.
    4. Carefully add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients and fold together until incorporated. 
    5. Add the poppyseeds and fold together until evenly mixed. 
    6. Fill the muffin cups half-way and bake until golden brown.

    Monday, March 27, 2017

    Cherry Chocolate Muffins

    Test, test. Is this thing on? Ground control to Major Tom? I'm not sure if this thing still works, it's been so long since a new recipe has gone up. End hibernation now!

    Way back in January, I wanted to make some orange cranberry muffins because I thought they were nice and wintery with just a hint of Christmas in the post-holiday lull. However, I couldn't find cranberries anymore. Despite still having the aisles marked with Christmas Entertaining, the store employee told me Christmas was over and there wouldn't be any cranberries. But they did have frozen cherries which seemed even more out of season than cranberries but okay, I rolled with it.


    It took me far too long to realize that Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream was actually an ode to Jerry Garcia but they were spot-on with their cherry and chocolate combination. I've given it a go in ice cream form as well but really this is another muffin that's a cupcake in disguise.

    In addition to the variation in produce availability, chocolate chips in England are different. Every time my friend has a visitor from America, she asks them to bring Nestle chocolate chips. Which on occasion end up in my pantry so I can put them into things like muffins. This recipe also uses yogurt which I've found to make especially spongy cakes and muffins.

     

    In a medium bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients. In a small bowl (non-metallic), melt the butter. In the melted butter, add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla (carefully). Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Fold in the cherries and chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into a prepared muffin pan, filling half-way.

     
    Bake until golden brown and cooked through (15-20 minutes). Allow to cool before enjoying with coffee or ice cream...

    Recipe

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup chocolate chips
    • 3/4 cup cherries (pitted and halved, if frozen then allow to thaw first)
    1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Prepare a muffin tin by greasing lightly or lining with muffin liners.
    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
    3. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Allow to cool slightly before mixing in the eggs,vanilla extract and yogurt.
    4. Mix the butter mixture into the flour mixture until you can no longer see the dry ingredients.
    5. Fold in the cherries and chocolate chips.
    6. Fill muffin tin half-way with batter and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden on top and cooked through.