Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring Cupcakes for School Bake Sale

My youngest goes to nursery school here which is like preschool back in the states. It is attached to the primary school which has a rotating bake sale each month for the various classes. This month Nursery (preschool) and Reception (pre-K) have their turn to bring in treats for the bake sale. They say that all the money goes straight to the classrooms, so I'm more than happy to bake these treats for them. 

When I asked my older kids what kind of cupcakes to make they insisted on spring cupcakes. While I was trying to get them to tell me what flavor the cupcakes should be, they said it didn't matter as long as they looked cool. So here are my cool spring cupcakes.

The recipe for the cupcake is Williams Sonoma's Vanilla Cupcake  and the icing is the Williams Sonoma Quick Buttercream. I add 1/2 tsp of vanilla beans in addition to the vanilla extract to make it an extreme vanilla icing flavor. For the butterfly cookies I used Sweetopia's Sugar Cookie Recipe and the flowers are just a marshmallow fondant. I don't have a recipe for the fondant because I just eyeball it every time. Then I added a touch of colorful sprinkles for the cupcake and a silver ball sprinkle for the center of each flower. Although these cupcakes turned out beautifully, they taste just as good as they look.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Chocolate Babka Bread

First I'd like to start off by saying Happy Birthday to my sister. She is the one that inspired this wonderful bread. She is going to make one today as well, and then we are going to compare who made this bread better. My sister and I love doing challenges together, so I thought this would be a wonderful way to celebrate her birthday.

This is a yeast bread, so I put all the ingredients in my bread maker. I chilled it for a bit so that I can easily roll it out.

While I was waiting for the bread maker I made some chocolate ganache. Ganache is pretty simple to make, you just warm up cream until just before it boils. Then you add a bunch of chocolate. You take it off the heat and stir like crazy. 

Once I got the dough rolled out, I spread the ganache all over the dough. 

Then I rolled the dough. Simple so far, but here is where it gets messy.

My sister thought it would be best to braid the bread. So I cut the bread into three strings and began to weave. When doing this, I find that leaving the top connected helps while creating the majority of the braid. Then I cut the top into the three sections and bread the top after the bottom has been secured. It turned out quite well using that method.

This is my finished braid.

Next came an egg wash, which is just a yolk and milk mixed together.

Me brushing the egg wash on the bread dough. 

After I let it proof and bake, this is my bread. Apparently this is the end result my sister will be critiquing me on. There is a way to grade bread based on the size, shape, and frequency of the holes. Hopefully I did alright :)

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Swiss Roll

Last month for my birthday, my husband took me and the family to a Cake & Bake Show in London. It was so much fun and very inspiring. I ended up subscribing to a few magazines, and each magazine came with its own free offer. One of the offers I got was a British baking cookbook. As much as I complain about the British food, they do know how to make baked treats. We love enjoying visiting cafes for tea just to taste their yummy goodies. 

As you see today I made a Swiss Roll. I thought it would be very time consuming and complex, but honestly it was much easier than I thought. I was amazed that it only took 10 minutes to bake in the oven. With the parchment paper lining on the baking sheet, the rolling process went very smoothly. The only problem I had with this was convincing my son and myself to leave some for the others when they get home.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Homemade Candy Bar

Starting this weekend, we have been planning and decorating for a Halloween party we are having for my daughter. We've been cutting out contact paper, sewing pillows, and coming up with fun games that aren't too lame for a tween. On top of that, my friends are putting together a Halloween party for the American families that live around here. Halloween is always such a fun holiday.

We have a huge bucket of candy sitting in our house for Halloween. It is just calling to be eaten. So to tide us over until Halloween, I made my own candy bars. I made the caramel and put marshmallow fluff on top. Then covered it all with chocolate and topped it with some homemade chocolate crumble. Ok I made the chocolate crumble awhile ago, so I don't remember exactly how I made it...but I assure you it is delicious :)

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes

Last week was National Cupcake Week here in the UK. I made a horrible mistake last year of not making enough cupcakes (according to my children), so this year I tried to make a different cupcake every day. The best cupcake I came up with was the Cinnamon Roll Cupcake. Admittedly, they were a bit sweet and sugary, but I think that is why they were so popular. I used a coffee cake recipes as my base, but I added some extra oil and an egg to the mixture to make it a better cake batter. I created a cinnamon mixture out of brown sugar, cinnamon, and shortening (you could use butter), and then I added enough hot water to make it a good drizzle. I put the cinnamon mixture in the middle of the cupcakes, and then I put it in a piping bag to create the swirls on top. The icing is just a standard glaze of powdered sugar and hot water. Hopefully next year's Cupcake Week I can come up with another awesome cupcake!

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Sourdough Bread

You maybe surprised to find out that my kids get more excited about the treat being fresh baked bread than any kind of sweet. The only other thing they get super excited about is when I use the fryer, but that is more because I hate fried foods so I rarely make them. I actually make fresh bread at least twice a week, but they still get excited when they open the front door to the smell of bread baking in the oven. 

For Christmas I received a book called the Bread Baker's Apprentice. It teaches all the ins and outs of making bread. This particular loaf of bread used no commercial yeast. I thought it would be really neat to make bread with just flour and water. At the end "neat" would not be the word I would use to describe the process. It took almost two weeks and some peculiar instructions that were both confusing and time consuming. Not to mention the constant container on my counter taking up space. 

Since I followed the recipe to a T, the loaf was a whole wheat sourdough. While everyone ate their bread and enjoyed it, the reviews were...."its OK" and "it would be better with butter" (we don't carry butter in our house). For something that took me TWO weeks to make, "its OK" and "needs butter" was NOT the response I wanted to get. However, I am still very proud of myself for completing the task of making this loaf.  

In the end, not all treats are fabulous, but I think I've learned a valuable skill of making bread without commercial yeast. I'm going to try again (in the not so near future) and make another sourdough bread with white flour and see if that helps get better reviews. 

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Salted Pretzel Marshmallow Bars

The treat of the day is a treat from my Food Network Magazine, but I'll get to that a little later.

Yesterday was quite an exciting mail day for me! I love getting things in the mail, and when several packages come in all at once it is a good day. Ok I might be a bit dorky getting excited over the mail; however, this good mail day brought me loads of coupons and my youngest daughter's school clothes.

My sister sends me expired coupons because they save me a future at the commissary. Since we are stationed overseas, the commissary takes coupons up to 6 months expired. As you can see she is a bit of an extreme couponer, but that just gives me extras to share with friends.

I also got a large package of Old Navy clothes I bought for my youngest as school clothes. Most of the clothes here in London are very expensive and in terrible taste. Most kids wear uniforms to school, so there is not a large market for cute kids clothes. 

Anyways, earlier this week mom called me and told me I had to make a treat from the new Food Network Magazine. She said these Food Network's Salted Pretzel Marshmallow Bars were the perfect salty sweet treat. I must agree they turned out perfect, and my family gobbled them up instantly.

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