Monday, December 3, 2012

If you give a book a cookie...

Rose water shortbread with bittersweet chocolate base.
I have been eyeball deep in autobiographies and I absolutely love them. I don't know what kicked off this obsession but I'm glad to have it as reading about the lives of others has sparked a curious baking endeavor. As I've been reading these life stories some kind of sweetie comes to life in my mind that is in someway reminiscent of the storyteller. It may seem certainly caught me off guard, but I love that it has challenged my penchant for unusual flavor profiles. I'll be posting the recipes inspired by these books over the next few weeks.
Great Great Uncle James.
The first in this new series of posts belongs to my great great uncle: James Wedgwood Drawbell. Uncle James was a tenacious Scotsman who forged a name for himself in the newspaper publishing world with over 20 successful years in the industry. In his early days of journalism he rubbed elbows with the likes of Noel Coward and Scott Fitzgerald. At 26 he turned a faltering Sunday paper in London into a success and over the years became known for recognizing new talent, pushing publishing into a new era of ideas and advocating important causes...which led to frequent and timely conversations with George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, D.H. Lawrence, Dorothy Thompson and then there was one kicker of an afternoon tea with Adolf Hitler.

He is a masterful storyteller. His use of language is captivating. It's easy to journey through his life as though having been present at every turn. It gives me hope that somewhere in my genetic make up there's a little of the same storytelling DNA floating about.

It seems his purpose for telling his story is twofold. One, the nuts and bolts of successful newspaper publishing. And two, to show that with faith, determination and gumption anyone can succeed in their vocation. Do I hear an Amen?

 The most important part of the book is the first 80 pages. It is the most heartbreaking part of his story and the most triumphant. The section is called The Thistle and The Rose and it recalls his childhood under the weight of poverty, the unpredictability of a tormented father and the protection of an adoring mother and siblings. It is this part of his story that inspired the recipe. James describes at length the love and devotion he has for his mother. Her tiny stature juxtaposed with the inner strength of a freight train, and her delicate kindness a gift to her children but a curse to her married life. His father, on the other hand, goes unnamed. James calls him the Pupil Teacher after his brief encounter with employment. At the deepest depth of his depravity this unnamed man was packed up by his sister and shipped off to a colony never to be heard from again! And the family, led by James' tiny mom, started a new life. His mother the Rose, his father the Thistle. However painful the thistle was in James Drawbell's life he managed to turn wounds into wisdom and walked away with a hearty sense of self worth and confidence.

So, inspired by his family and formative events in his childhood, I created a shortbread recipe: Rose water with bittersweet chocolate. Slightly obvious: shortbread being Scottish, rose for his mom and the bittersweet chocolate the stamp on his life left from his father. Before attempting this recipe I researched rose water pairings--I often use it with white chocolate and pistachios. I was delighted to see that it had been used with the darker chocolates in a handful of recipes (some savoury, oddly enough) so I gave it a whirl...or whurrrrrl. (*sigh* wish the accent also traveled genetically). The rosy aromatic buttery cookie with the melt-in-your-mouth intensity of the dark chocolate is a feast for the senses. A cookie befitting of a man who's life, though laced with the bitter, was tempered by the sweet.

Rose Water Shortbread with Bittersweet Chocolate

Adapted from 3 Martha Stewart shortbread recipes: here, here and Classic Shortbread recipe in the 2010 Holiday Cookies issue.


1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup + 2 Tbs confectioners sugar (icing sugar)
1 Tbs rose water
5 oz bittersweet chocolate

  1. Spray an 8 inch square pan or round tart pan with removable bottom or stone cookie mould generously with spray oil. If using a regular pan I also line with parchment and add a little more spray oil on to that. My first three attempts with the baking stone I didn't spray enough! Set aside.
  2. Combine flours, set aside.
  3. In a mixer fixed with paddle attachment cream butter and sugar. Add rose water. *If you are not going to add chocolate later reduce rose water to 2 tsp. The chocolate will overpower the rose  if not enough rose water, but the rose will overwhelm the shortbread if too much.* It is important to add the rose water at this stage. It will change the texture entirely if added at the end or after the flour is added.
  4. Add flour mixture all at once until combined. It will be crumbly at first but keep going until it forms a stiff dough.
  5. Place dough on plastic wrap and using the wrap form dough into disk. Place disk in middle of stone mould and press into whole mould using the plastic wrap. Same process with other pans. Let chill for 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  7. Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, pierce dough (not all the way through) all over. Bake until light golden brown and firm-ish in the center. This can take anywhere from 30-50 minutes. depending on pan. Re-pierce (not all the way through and not as often) with wooden skewer or chopstick to make slightly larger holes - this will grab the melted chocolate later and keep it from easily flopping off when all is cooled and done. Let cool 10 minutes on wire rack.
  8. To unmould, place a tea towel onto a cutting board and then turn over onto mould so tea towel is between mould and cutting board. Invert so mould is upside down on teatoweled cutting board. Tap mould and cutting board very firmly on hard work surface. You may need an offset spatula or knife to loosen the edges first. Lift mould and using tea towel drag shortbread back onto wire rack to cool completely.
  9. In a double broiler (pot with a few inches of simmering water and bowl placed on top - not touching the water) melt chocolate. Let cool.
  10. Invert shortbread again so the bottom is facing upwards. Spread a thin layer of melted chocolate and let harden.
  11. Turn over, slice into wedges and enjoy! 
Shortbread can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ginger Honey Shot Chocolate

When you ask for a hot chocolate in Europe you are handed a tiny cup with a smidge of melted chocolate...and what might seem as a colossal disappointment at first turns out to be the smoothest most gorgeous ounce of decadence your mouth has ever experienced. And it's all you need. A shot. Any more is asking too much of your palate. 

Here is the recipe (inspired by CityLine)

1 cup half & half or coffee cream ( real, not creamer)
1/3 cup heavy cream 
2/3 cup milk
5 tsp honey
5 slices ginger
5 handfuls dark or semi sweet couverture chocolate chips

In a saucepan heat dairy, honey and ginger until bubbling/boiling. Turn off element and let ginger steep for 5-15 minutes to desired gingerness. I let mine steep 8 minutes. Stir constantly so a skin doesn't form on top.

Scoop out the ginger, and bring back to a light boil then turn down to low heat.

Add chocolate and whisk until fully melted. Add more chocolate if desired. Should be thicker than normal hot chocolate.

Scoop into espresso cup and enjoy.
Alternative uses: if you like thinner hot chocolate add steamed milk to desired taste.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

One, two chai chai chai...

Spicy Chai Cupcakes with Cinnamon White Chocolate Buttercream
America is celebrating Thanksgiving next week and though most matriarchs will have planned the food, tablescape and nap intervals months ago, in the off chance you find you're a last minute invitee here is a sweet treat to add to feast: Spicy Chai Cupcakes with Cinnamon White Chocolate Buttercream.

As I said last year American Thanksgiving is not to be taken lightly. There are rules of engagement. You are expected to eat, watch college football, eat more, nap, eat again, caffeinate and line up for Black Friday. I offer these tips as a foreigner who experienced five American Thanksgivings:
  1. Wear stretchy pants. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you're lucky enough to have maternity pants in your wardrobe consider those you're most prized possession.
  2. Wear empire waist shirts that fall loosely and hide the stretchy waist band in your pants. 
  3. No button up collar shirts...though your boobs will not grow bigger eating this much food your stomach inevitably will, pushing your boobs up and out of the designated boob area of this type of shirt. This can only end badly with the buttons pulling at the buttonholes like a pre-green Incredible Hulk moment...exposing cleavage or worse: the belly/boob squidge...where the gut and boobs meet. This goes for men too.
  4. Forget shapewear...otherwise you'll be digesting your food in your esophagus.
  5. If you don't know anything about football, don't pretend you do. Trust me. Pick a pretty colour and cheer. 
  6. Pace yourself with both food and cheer. Nobody likes a drunk glutton by the end of the salad round.
  7. Rehearse and remember for what and why you are thankful. You will be tested.
  8. Bring a change of clothes, comfortable walking shoes, camp chair and blanket for Black Friday lineups. DO NOT bring a guitar. Some other cheeseball already has.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving my American friends!

Spicy Chai Cupcakes with Cinnamon White Chocolate Buttercream

You will need:


2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp allspice
3/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup heavy cream or milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Cinnamon White Chocolate  Buttercream
adapted from Anna Olson

 2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
20 ounces good quality white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 1/3 cups icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract
cinnamon to sprinkle on top


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tins with liners. Should yield at least 12 cupcakes.
  • In a large bowl whisk dry ingredients. Set aside.
  • In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, scraping bowl after each addition. Add vanilla.
  • Alternate dry ingredients with cream in three additions beginning and ending with the dry. Scrape down bowl. Don't over mix.
  • Fill cupcake liners two thirds full.
  • Bake for about 18 minutes, until the tops barely bounce back when lightly pressed
  • Let cool
  • In a stand-up mixer or in a large bowl with electric beaters, beat butter until fluffy. 
  • Beat in cooled melted chocolate on medium speed. Reduce speed and beat in icing sugar and vanilla.
  • Chill for about an hour to set before using.
  • pipe on to cupcakes and sprinkle cinnamon on top. (if you mix cinnamon into the buttercream it changes the color to almost the same as the cupcakes. For texture and color variation I just sprinkle it on top)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell Like Scones

White Chocolate Pistachio Rose Scones
I'm not yet sure if this is bragging or a nerd alert, but I think I'm becoming a proper Whovian. What is a Whovian, you ask? Well, I believe it's someone who's knowledge and excitement for Dr. Who dodges most socially accepted circles. This is not unusual for me. Dr. Who isn't the only sci-fi or fantasy-ish world I have floated around in. I have dangerously nerdy knowledge of Middle Earth and the Force (be with you). Again, not really bragging, just clarifying that it's not out of the blue I would get pulled into the Tardis and love the ride.

I have scoured Netflix, the video store and legal online players to find episodes from every era of Dr. Who. I haven't been all that successful, but I have devoured what I can find. So far I've seen episodes involving 4 out of 11 Doctors, my favorite is Tom Baker, though how adorable is David Tennant? And my favorite companion is Sarah Jane Smith. To be fair, I'm only up to post millennium season two, so I have a long way to go this side of the Dr. Who "re-boot." I must say I am looking forward to Catherine Tate's version of the Doctor's companion since she's ridiculously funny...hoping they gave her cheeky dialogue. (Patience, Kristen there's a whole season between last viewed episode and Catherine...)

The companion I've traveled with most since this odyssey began is Rose Tyler. Not especially engaging, but likeable all the same. And without having seen episodes between the Tom Baker era and Rose Tyler's inaugural journey, I'm curious to know if she was the first to make-out with the Doctor or perhaps the first to lip-lock two different regenerations? (note: she wasn't really herself in either instance, but still - nicely done, Rose.)

And since I have at least another 5 episodes of Rose before I meet the next companion, it is befitting I bake White Chocolate Pistachio Rose scones to enjoy whilst watching.

These scones are delightfully aromatic, but beware of the amount of rose water you use. They could end up tasting like soap...or smelling like your gran at a Kenny Rogers concert.

So here's to Rose Tyler, kicking alien arse and snogging the Doctor from 2005-2006.

White Chocolate Pistachio Rose Scones

Here's what to do:
Preheat your oven to about 360 degrees F. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Rough Chop:
Belgian white chocolate into about 1 cup small chunks
Pistachios into about 3/4 cup small pieces (you could toast in a small frying pan over med heat if you like, but don't have to)

whisk together:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake/pastry flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder (fresh, opened within the last month)
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

In a measuring cup whisk together:
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use whole fat yogurt)
1 egg room temp (for room temp: place egg in small bowl and cover with hot water, let stand for 2 minutes)
1-ish tsp rose water (start with 1/2 tsp and add more until the yogurt has a slight rose scent)

Take dry ingredients and cut in one stick (1/2 cup) of cold unsalted butter (either by food processor, or pastry cutter or by's best to touch it as little as possible so the butter remains cold).

The texture should be sandy and mealy. Pour into bowl and add white chocolate chunks.

Pour wet mix on top and stir in with fork.

Don't over work it, just until all the wet is mixed in...should have some crumbly bits left at the bottom of the bowl. If you find it's still too dry, add a little more yogurt or heavy cream to help.

Dump out mix onto a lightly floured surface. gently work in any crumbly bits. Form dough into an 7-8" disc and cut into 8 pie-like portions. (for thorough pic by pic instructions see pumpkin scone recipe)

Place on parchment on cookie sheet.
*you could brush egg wash (one egg whisked) on top at this point, but you don't have to*
Bake for 20-ish minutes. Should be golden around edges and a little golden on top.

While cooling, melt 1/2 cup white couverture chocolate (I use Belgian white from the Bulk Barn) in a double broiler:
  • bring about 2-3 inches of water in a saucepan to a simmer not a boil
  • place a bowl on top - not in - the saucepan 
  • place the chocolate in the bowl and stir while melting until almost melted 
  • remove bowl and continue to stir until all the chocolate has completely melted
Pour chocolate into a piping bag (I just use a Ziploc and cut the very tip of one corner) and zigzag the chocolate over the scones. Or however you want to do it...there's no right way! While the chocolate is still warm sprinkle chopped pistachio on top and secure them with a little more melted white chocolate.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Twitter-pated to Twitter-bated and the cookie that eased the bane.

Port wine caramels (front) and Port wine caramel dark chocolate chocolate chip cookies (behind)
This is a bit of a vent, so if you just want the Port Wine Caramel Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe scroll down!

It's been a month since I lost my Twitter-ginity and as anticlimactic as that was, the Twittersphere on the whole has been a bit of a let down. I thought it would be good practice for writing pithy statements since you're limited to 140 characters. I thought it might even provide an opportunity to connect with a few writers and comedians I admire. The transition from Facebook to Twitter, however, wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.

Facebook  (a backyard barbeque with friends) vs Twitter (a pity invite to the cool kids' party) is proving a sad little showdown. Yeah, yeah, it's all a bit can one expect real connection through social networking - it's not face to face communication, blardy blar. I'll be honest, though I have many a Facebook friend close by, I love it for the connection with my friends and family who are not in any drivable distance. And though it's been accused of being just a venue for narcissists, I've loved the invitation to friends' self disclosure as well as sharing my own.

Twitter, on the other hand, lets me follow anyone and anyone can follow me. Not just friendlies. Anyone. I thought this might be a bad mix for me. It's not what you think. Yes, there is the danger of Twitter trolls and spammers who could potentially fill my page with rubbish...but as it turns out I feel like I'm the troll.

I decided when I started tweeting that I would follow as many writers and comedians as I could. People whose writing and comedy has in some way impacted my writing style...listen and learn from the truly gifted. Eager to learn from their wisdom or witty accounts of the world around them. Eager to emulate those whose writing styles I feel some kind of kindred attachment to or just admire.

But here's the kicker, on Facebook a response, even a "like" is almost always a given. That precious little "thumbs-up, we heard you and we like you" is ridiculously validating.

There is no such thing on Twitter. Yes, there is the option of a reply...but don't count on getting one. Especially when tweeting someone who has some kind of public profile. Don't get me wrong, the people I follow are not high profile actors or musicians who fight for the cover of People magazine...I follow good writers and funny people who have been published or have had scripts make it to production (with a smattering of highly recognizable comedians who I would never tweet as I know it would be futile). And of the writers and funny people I have bravely tweeted, for the most part, it was to get information related to one of their tweets. I've asked a sports presenter about scoring rules in diving not expecting a personal tweet just a general answer en masse...nothing.  I've asked a comedian's fan page (not even managed by the comedian) information about an upcoming book...nothing. There have been a few other benign unacknowledged tweets. To be fair, some have hundreds of followers so I don't know why I'd expect a response. Still, it left me feeling a bit small and insignificant.

Tweeting is dumping 140 characters into space and watching it float off into the void. I'm a writer...I rely on feedback. Twitter is not the place for feedback. Unless you're one of these public profile people and get bombarded with questions about diving scores and book launches. Or worse.

On the upside, I did get a kind response from a funny man regarding the Edinburgh Fringe Festival...I almost cried. Me? You're talking to me??  On the downside, a funny lady kindly acknowledged me and I managed to frighten her away by also trying to be funny - never a good idea for me especially where words are limited and intonation is missing. My fault, that one. For a week I kept thinking, "I bet she thinks I'm a troll. How awful." But maybe I really am. Is communicating with someone you don't really know, trolling? It kind of is. They didn't ask me to follow them. And most of the information I'm looking for I could probably find via Google.  This is a horrible feeling to come to terms's the last thing in the world I'd ever want to be...or worse, have other people think so of me.

I'm debating deleting my Twitter account, though I don't want to give up on it just yet. It probably takes a little time to get used to watching dialogue and not participating...and not using it as an information gathering resource except to take note when those I follow are plugging a book, show or article. It should probably be used only for...what? Spectating? Maybe all you tweeters out there could tell me why you use Twitter.

In the meantime I will temper the silence with chocolate and red the form of a cookie.

 Port Wine Caramel Dark Belgian Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
These were inspired by a bacon caramel cookie and port wine lollies!

First: 1 1/2 cups Late Bottled Vintage Port - reduce in saucepan to 1/2 cup

1 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup heavy cream (divided)
1/2 cup reduced port

Line 8x8 brownie pan with parchment. Combine all but 1/2 cup of heavy cream.

Bring to a boil until it reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit on your candy thermometer.  Add remaining cream and bring back to boil until it reaches 245 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour into 8x8 pan and let set.

Once set: slice into 1" by 1" squares. You'll need about 24 for one batch of cookies.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
1/3 cup dark chocolate chopped into bits (Belgian if you can)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs room temperature
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips  (Belgian if you can)

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Melt butter and chopped dark chocolate in saucepan or microwave. In a mixer with the paddle attachment mix the melted butter and dark chocolate. Add sugars and mix on low until well combined. Add eggs, mix until well combined. Add vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined, scraping edges and bottom of bowl. Add semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Using a spoon scoop out dough and place a caramel square in the middle, squish dough around it so it is completely covered. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 11 - 13 minutes. Let cool.

Any remaining caramel can be sliced and packaged and placed in a sealed container or you can make another batch of dough and use them up in the cookies.

(p.s. I'm posting this via Twitter...watching it float away...bye bye.)
(p.p.s. Thank goodness I am also posting it to Facebook, where there are people who love me.)
(p.p.p.s Apologies for the photos...some have turned out rather pinkish...I should really get my photographer husband to take them for me!)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

For the Love of Food...

Lemon Lavender Lollies
I love food. I luuuuurve food. It is the thing that brings us together, consoles us when we're alone, challenges us for our health's sake and inspires us to be more adventurous.

It's the adventure that I love most. It is a thrill to come up with something pretty and new and unusual but compatible in flavor. It's even more exciting when someone who has resisted unusual flavors decides to take the plunge and try something they'd never thought they'd like.

Yesterday marked the beginning of the farmer's market season in my wee little town. It is at this market where my little baking venture can reach the most palates.  I have plenty of classics on my table: chocolate chip cookies (with Belgian chocolate chips), cinnamon twists, croissants, scones, artisan breads. But I also like to add a touch of the unexpected.

This week's surprises were lemon and cracked pepper artisan bread, dark Belgian chocolate and cherry cookies and lemon lavender lollies. You might be thinking, "those seem like rather orthodox choices where I'm from," but in a town that is largely fueled by prefab donuts, coffee and pizza chains I definitely get the "she must be bonkers" looks from some of my patrons. I don't mind it a bit. Because there are many whose eyes widen and feel the call to something different. Call me crazy, but I think there is movement toward tantalizing and unexpected cuisine in this town and I am pleased as punch to bring my tiny contribution to it.

These delightful, pretty little numbers were inspired by artist/baker Heather from SprinkleBakes. She used edible flowers, which I will attempt for a wedding in the summer, but I wanted to try the candy making part before launching into it at the time of the wedding.

I had on hand lemons and culinary lavender, two of my favorite flavors, so I gave it a whirl and what transpired was a little taste of heaven...or the aroma of walking in a field in Provence...they taste like what I imagine pretty to taste like.

Here's what to do:
  1. get a lollipop want the kind that can withstand heat up to 350 degrees 
  2. Gather:
    2 cups sugar
    2/3 cup light corn syrup
    2/3 cup water
    1 dram bottle candy flavoring oil (such as LorAnn, I used lemon oil)
    flowers, or rind or whatever you wish to put into them
    Candy thermometer 
    canola oil spray (for the mold - trust me, if you want to get the lollies out of the mold, you'll need this)
Spray mold with oil.
Bring water, sugar and corn syrup to a boil and let boil until it reaches 302 degrees F, the hard crack stage, on your candy thermometer. Make sure said candy thermometer is working. Mine was not and I ended up with a black mess on my first round. I asked Heather from SprinkeBakes and she said to test the thermometer by placing it in boiling water and it should read 212 degrees F. Mine had a hard time moving past 200 degrees F.
sugar caramelizes at 350-ish so if you're getting a golden hue, you're well past the hard crack stage!
boil to hard crack stage, about 302 degrees F
  Once it's reached the hard crack stage let it settle down a minute and then add a few drops of the flavored oil (and food coloring if you'd like).

Spoon into molds about half way, add your bits and then spoon a little more candy on top to cover the bits.
lemon rind and culinary lavender
lollipop mold that can withstand heat up to 375 degrees F
Let stand until hard about 10 - 20 minutes. The candy in your saucepan will thicken and harden, but I was able to reheat it and melt it to the right consistency again. Mine caramelized a little more each time I heated it, I didn't mind as it made for a beautiful yellow hue so I didn't need to add food coloring. Next time I'll try to reheat it a little slower or keep it on a low heat setting while I fill my molds.

Can be consumed as a lollipop or try stirring it your earl grey tea.

I'd love to hear about your adventures into the culinary world. The first 3 people to tell me about their interesting or unusual flavor combinations will get a lemon lavender lollie!


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Borrowed and Bleu (that's French for blue..I didn't lose spell check)

My dear-heart friend Shannon-May of Shannon-May Photography is at it again. She submitted an inspiration shoot she and Sarah (from Celebrations by Sarah) styled to wedding planning blog Borrowed & Bleu. Beeeautiful photography and clever theme! Way to go ladies!

If you take a peek at the blog post you may recognize a few treats made by yours truly. The writer refers to me as a food artist which called for a fist-pump...I'd never call myself one, but I'm not going to lie--I don't mind if someone else does. (squeeee) It's a lovely encouragement as I ramp up for another farmer's market season. I am inspired!

Here's the post: Borrowed & Bleu

Friday, April 6, 2012

Covert Cupcakes

Covert Cupcakes: sweet potato quinoa
 If you're hoping to temper the sugar-fest this weekend with something that looks deceptively sweet but actually has some nutritional value and no food colouring, I highly recommend the sweet potato quinoa cupcake. It's made with buckwheat flour, cooked quinoa and roasted sweet potato.

What? That sounds more like a dinner roll than a cupcake, you say? Well yes, it probably sounds like one...but it sure doesn't taste like one. And I top it with white chocolate buttercream...hey, I did say temper the sugar - not alleviate all together. Another slightly more healthy option is cream cheese icing. Or skip the topping all together and call them muffins. Whatever you choose, you may be surprised how much your kids like them and you can reward yourself with a fist-pump for sneaking in a little good-for-you under the the radar.

Covert Sweet Potato Cupcakes
Adapted from Annie's Eats

1 cup cake flour (not the self rising kind)
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
17 oz sweet potato puree
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cooked quinoa

First things first:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place uncooked sweet potatoes on a baking sheet (I like to place a little tin foil over the sheet first to protect the sheet from sweet potato leakage). Roast for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour...until soft in the middle. Let cool enough to peel off the skin, throw them in a blender, food processor or use a hand blender to puree.

Cook the quinoa according to directions on the package -- usually 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa. Set aside.

Now the cupcakes are ready to make:
  1. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. In a separate bowl whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. 
  4. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scrape down bowl after each
  5. Mix in sweet potato puree and vanilla extract until just combined
  6. Turn speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions
  7. Add cooked quinoa until just combined
Scoop into cupcake liners and bake for about 16 - 20 minutes...or until the tops are firm-ish.
Let cool.

White Chocolate Buttercream (adapted from Anna Olson's White Chocolate Wedding cake)

  • 2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 16 ounces Belgian white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
In a stand-up mixer or in a large bowl with electric beaters, beat butter until fluffy. Beat in cooled melted chocolate on medium speed. Reduce speed and beat in icing sugar, vanilla and salt (icing will be a little soft). If needed, chill for about an hour to set before using.

Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Voila! Serve...aaaand fist-pump.

Happy Easter!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

And the Oscar goes to....

Coca Cola Caramel cupcakes with salted buttercream and popcorn garnish

It is a big night for film buffs and fashionistas. Not the best time of year to forgo cable for cheaper forms of media entertainment, alas I will have to stream the event through my trusty laptop. I haven't seen many of the films up for the illustrious award - shameful for a film school graduate - but I won't let that keep me from cheering on my favorite thespians and making some kind of event out of it.

If you're planning an Oscar do, here are a few ideas to round out the night:
  1. Coca Cola caramel cupcakes with salted buttercream frosting and popcorn garnish
  2. Oscar night printables from Twig and Thistle - including ballots, popcorn boxes, dink tags and place cards
  3. An older version of Twig and Thistle's Oscar night printables and serving suggestions.
  4. Oscar party printables from Hostess with the Mostess
Have fun!

When In Doubt, Just Add Sprinkles

Chocolate Almond Butter Balls with nonpareils
My eldest is my picky eater. There is nary a food in the world she will eat unless it resembles a sweetie of some kind. This is genetic, I am certain of it. A chip off the ol' block, really.  She rarely gets sugary things, except those with naturally occurring sugars like fruit. So when we do make treats (a.k.a incentives to eat the veg on her plate) I try to make them healthy-ish but still appear to be sweet-ish. Hence the chocolate almond butter ball rolled in sprinkles.

This recipe first appeared in my uber healthy mother-in-law's arsenal. I'm trying to find the original source, so if you recognize it, do let me know! They are packed with good things like sunflower seeds, nuts and flax but there is enough cocoa and almond butter to hide the good-for-you my daughter does not know, or readily acknowledge, that they are not sweeties. My mother-in-law rolls them in coconut flakes at the end, but this did not go over well with my kiddos. Colourful nonpareils, that's a party on a plate. Yes it adds to the sweet factor, but by so little - and it is the kicker that eliminates 10 rounds of will she/won't she eat her carrots.

Here is the recipe I adapted from my mother-in-law's version.  Easy peasy:

1/2 cup cocoa powder (I use raw cocoa powder but any will do)
1/2 almond butter (or any nut butter)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup quinoa flakes (or rolled oats if you're not sensitive to them)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup ground flax (or wheat germ)
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup toasted almonds (or hazelnuts or any nut)
nonpareils (optional)

Mix everything together. Spoon into hand and roll into balls. Roll each ball in a dish of nonpareils or sprinkles. Voila. Enjoy!

Chocolate almond butter balls covered in sprinkles...I ran out of nonpareils.