Rock Cakes

April 29, 2011

I was trying to think of something wonderfully British for us to eat while we watched the highly anticipated Royal Wedding. Since it’s an early morning affair for us (6 a.m.), I was leaning towards a breakfast type food. We’ve eaten a lot of scones in the past and don’t get me wrong, I’m sure we’ll eat a lot more. They’re a definite favourite. But I was looking for something a little different and that’s when I remembered Rock Cakes. Rock Cakes are a traditional British tea time treat.

Not to mention a particular favourite of none other than Harry Potter! Apparently, Mrs. Weasley’s cakes are much tastier than Hagrid’s, which resemble an actual rock a little too closely! I’ve wanted to make these for quite a while now, so I got busy. These little treats are very easy to make. They are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee as you prefer.

These tasty gems are crumbly, buttery, sweet and spicy. YUM! Served slathered with butter. You can’t go wrong!

Thankfully mine were closer to Mrs. Weasley’s than Hagrids!

Rock Cakes

Serves 12

Recipe adapted from Mrs. Maged’s Kitchen

Ingredients:
1 cup (225g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup (110g) butter

1/4 cup (55g) granulated sugar

1 cup (115g) sultanas

1/4 cup (55g) chopped crystalized ginger

1/2 teaspoon zest from lemon

2 medium-sized eggs

1-3 tbsp milk

A pinch of salt

Demerara sugar for sprinkling

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200C/180C fan/Gas 6) and grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place sultanas in bowl and cover with hot water. Allow them to sit for 5-10 minutes and then drain and pat dry.

Place flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in food processor. Pulse to mix together. Add butter, cut into small 1″ cubes and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add sugar and pulse until combined.

Lightly beat one of the eggs. Remove flour mixture from food processor and place in large bowl. Add egg to flour mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.

Add sultanas, crystallized ginger and lemon zest to bowl. Stir gently until just combined.

Add milk one tablespoon at a time until a stiff batter is achieved.

In a small bowl, lightly beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of  milk.

Drop the batter 1 heaping tablespoon at a time onto the prepared baking sheets. Create 12 equal-sized portions, evenly spaced out on the sheets. Paint the top of each cake with the egg/milk wash. Rough the top of each cake with the prongs of a fork. Sprinkle with the Demerara sugar.

Place in the oven for 15 minutes until they’re lovely and golden. Remove to wire rack to cool.


Two years ago today…

April 26, 2011

Two years ago today, at Cloghan Castle in Kilcreest, County Galway, Republic of Ireland, Jay and I were married! According to various anniversary gift lists I’ve browsed, I believe two years together entitles us to “cotton”. Hmmm…. I’m at a bit of a loss there. Though perhaps it could be referring to a big, fluffy cotton terry bathrobe that we could wear at a luxury spa….like the Ice House Hotel in Ballina Ireland, where we spent our honeymoon, for example.

Ice House Suite Bedroom

Ice House view of the Moy River

Yes. We had hoped to go back there last year for our first anniversary and it was not possible. Unfortunately, this year is following suit. We are hoping to post-pone any Ireland travel until September. Keep your fingers crossed for us. I really, really miss Ireland!

Conor Pass, Dingle

As far as anniversary gifts to each other (not going to be that spa robe till September at best), we had decided once again to buy something for the both of us. In fact we had our eye on the Harbor Lounge chair by Thomas Moser. I fear however that instead of this:

We will be getting this:

Boooo!

Let me explain. The temperature here in Virginia has already climbed into the mid-80’s several times this Spring. I really think that is totally out of line. It is much too early to be suffering that kind of weather and it really makes me fear what the actual summer has in store for us. Jay and I both despise the least bit of heat and humidity! So we were quite unhappy yesterday when the mercury climbed to 85° F and our sad, older AC unit was not able to keep our house in the mid-70’s, a temperature range in which we can continue to exist. So although I had been picturing myself relaxing in my Harbour Lounge chair, the image became considerably less pleasing when I thought of myself melting all over the beautiful chair come around July. Oh well!

So what kind of celebration did we have today? Very low-key. Of course it involved this (our all time favourite):

And a delicious cupcake from another favourite, Baked and Wired. Best in the DC/Metro area!

We did also go to dinner at Tunnicliff’s Tavern on Capitol Hill.

It was the first restaurant Jay and I went to when we were officially dating. But otherwise we thought we’d save what we could for some vacations we hope to take later in the year, namely Maine and Newfoundland. Both cooler climes we hope to visit during the depth of the oppressive Virginia summer.

Maine Sunrise

Foggy Bauline Newfoundland

Our second year of marriage has been as wonderful as the first. Both of us can truly say we’ve never been so happy. We look forward to many more together! Now, time to go, champagne’s a waitin!


Cadbury Bunny-skivers!

April 24, 2011

Happy Easter! What better way to start off this sugar drenched day but with the Easter breakfast of champions – Ebelskivers stuffed with mini Cadbury Creme Eggs and mini Cadbury Caramel Eggs! O.k. So I’m sure everyone knows what the Cadbury candies are, but you may be wondering “what is an Ebelskiver?” If you missed my previous post on Nutella and Banana stuffed Peanut Butter Ebelskivers, they are round pancakes which originated in Denmark and are perfect for breakfast, appetizers or snacks. You will of coarse need one special piece of equipment to make these goodies – namely the Ebelskiver Pan.

Ebelskiver Pan & Turners

My husband received one for his birthday a couple of years ago. The ebelskiver turners, long, carved wooden sticks, are great to have, but you could possibly get by with chopsticks, wooden skewers or even knitting needles in a pinch. For these treats, I made a vanilla ebelskiver batter. Unwrapped all of my Cadbury Candies.

Mmmmm....Cadbury yummies!

Placed a bit of butter in each well of my pan. Once this butter started to bubble, I placed 1 tablespoon of the batter in the pan and then placed my mini Cadbury Egg in the center of the batter.

mini Cadbury Egg filling in place

Then you place 1 more tablespoon of the batter on top to cover the filling.Turning the treats takes a bit of practice, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. Once it is time to turn them, place your turners on opposite sides of the pancakes and slide them down between the wall of the well and the cooked edges.Gently lift and rotate. Rather than flip mine over all at once, I quickly move around the pan rotating them 1/4 turn at a time until they are completely turned over. Once these Easter-skivers were done cooking, I dusted a bit of confectioners sugar over top and Voila!

I’m not sure whether I prefer the traditional creme filled egg ebelskivers or the caramel filled egg variety.

They were both quite decadent! As you can see, I couldn’t resist dressing one up as a bunny.

I’m afraid we ate the others too quickly before they had a chance to get into their bunny suits! If you have any mini Cadbury Eggs left over from your Easter baskets (I’m not sure how that could possibly happen…) give these a try. You’ll love ‘em!

 Cadbury Bunny-skivers

Makes batter for 20 Ebelskivers

Ingredients

1 Cup (5 oz/155g) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, separated

1 Cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) milk

2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

20 mini Cadbury Creme Eggs or mini Caramel Eggs – your choice, or a mix of both as I did

Confectioners’ Sugar for dusting

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the milk, 2 tablespoons of the melted butter and the vanilla extract until smooth. Add the yolk mixture to the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir until well blended. Don’t worry-the batter will be lumpy.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the rest just until no white streaks remain.

Add butter to the wells of the ebelskiver pan. This can be done with a pastry brush, or I often just put about 1/8 tsp. in each well. Place the pan over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble, add 1 tablespoon of the batter to each well. Working quickly, carefully place one Cadbury mini egg into the center of each pancake. Top each with another 1 tablespoon of the batter.

Cook until the bottoms of the pancakes are lightly browned and crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Use your ebelskiver turners or whatever you have, turn all of the pancakes and cook until browned on the second side-about 3 minutes longer.

Remove the pancakes from the pan. Dust them with confectioners’ sugar.  Serve immeadiatly.

Recipe for Vanilla Ebelskiver Batter from Ebelskivers by Kevin Crafts


Bird’s Nests

April 23, 2011

This is a fantastic Easter treat! I saw several versions of these whimsical Bird’s Nests around on various food blogs. I really liked the one featured on the Curvy Carrot blog and followed that recipe. The treats were very easy to make and chock full of ingredients that I love – chocolate, butterscotch and peanut butter…YUM! Even better, these little nests were filled with mini Cadbury Eggs.

Now, I really, really love them. (to the point that I often refer to them as “Crack-bury Eggs”…soooo delicious and addictive!) I can hardly restrain myself when they make their appearance in the stores around Easter. Yup, I”m doing the “Cadbury Happy Dance” through the grocery store aisles! This year I managed to score not only the traditional milk chocolate Cadbury Mini Eggs, but I also found the dark chocolate version. Be still my heart!

Another favourite Easter candy of mine is Robin’s Eggs. For those of you who don’t know what they are, they’re malted milk balls essentially dressed up for Easter! I decided that some of my nests would hold the mini version of them as well.

What can I say? These goodies taste phenomenally good and look just as great! They were a big hit at a party I went to just last night. Make some today and fill them with your Easter candy favourites!

Birds’ Nests

Recipe from the Curvy Carrot

Servings: 12

Ingredients

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, for greasing the muffin pan

6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips

6 ounces of butterscotch chips

1 cup creamy peanut butter

6 ounces of chow mein noodles

mini Cadbury Eggs

mini Robin’s Eggs

marshmallow fluff

Instructions

1. Generously grease the wells of a muffin pan with the butter (this will help later when you are taking out the chilled nests).

2. In a large microwave-proof bowl, heat the chocolate and butterscotch chips in 30 second intervals until thoroughly melted, stirring after each increment.

3. Once melted, add the peanut butter to the chocolate/butterscotch mixture, mixing well until smooth and completely combined.

4. Carefully add the chow mein noodles, stirring with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until completely coated.

5. Using a large spoon, mold the mixture into the wells of your muffin tin, indenting the tops slightly with the back of the spoon.

6.  Chill the nests until hardened, about 1 hour or so.

7.  Once chilled, remove the nests from the muffin tin. Gently prying them loose with a butter knife worked well.

8.  Place mini eggs, or treats of your choice in each nest, securing them to the nest with a bit of marshmallow fluff.


Hot Cross Buns

April 22, 2011
“Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, One a penny, Two a penny, Hot Cross Buns!”

It’s Good Friday today and that means you are sure to find some of these yeasty cinnamon, fruit buns around. The cross on top of the bun is said to be a symbol of the Crucifixion. It is also said that these buns may pre-date Christianity as buns adorned with a cross, which symbolized the four quarters of the moon, were made in honour of the Saxon Goddess Eostre. Indeed, there are quite a few legends surrounding this Easter treat. For instance, it is said – probably by those old wives – you know how they love to tell tales – that Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday will never get moldy. If you keep one hanging in your kitchen to dry out, not only will it protect your household from fire and aid all of further bread baking endeavours, but once thoroughly dry it has the medicinal uses. You take the powder from the dry bun and mix it into a glass of water, ale or milk and give it to the person who is sickly and it is a curative. This amazing powder can also be applied directly to a wound. Caution now! This will only work with buns actually baked on Good Friday, so if you’re not baking these yourself today,  you’ll have to check with you bakery on the date their buns were made to see if their magic curative charm is intact.
There is a pub in England named the Widow’s Son which has an interesting Good Friday Hot Cross Bun tradition. It seems that long ago their was a widow who lived in a cottage where the current pub now sits. She had one son who was a sailor. He was due home from sea in time for Easter. On Good Friday, she baked him a batch of Hot Cross Buns for him, as they were one of his favourite treats.Sadly he never returned home. However, she continued to set one bun aside for him every year for as long as she lived. She passed away in 1848 and her cottage was turned into a pub. The new owners christened it “The Widow’s Son” in memory of her grief and continued to set aside a bun for her long lost son every Good Friday. To this day, this pub upholds this tradition. On Good Friday, a sailor from the Royal Navy is invited to the Widow’s Son Pub. He brings along a fresh Hot Cross Bun to add to their collection-over 200- which hangs from the ceiling. Many of these buns are well over 100 years old!
Well I did actually make mine today on Good Friday so they are sure to be powerful. I’m going to try to set one aside. I make no promises though. These buns are really tasty….
Hot Cross Buns
recipe adapted from Epicurious
makes 24 buns
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup warm milk (105°–115°F.)
  • two 1/4-ounce packages (5 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons milk
Directions:

In a small bowl stir together milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Let mixture stand 5 minutes, or until foamy.

Place raisins and currants in bowl. Cover with hot water and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain fruit and pat dry.

Into a large bowl sift together flour, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Cut butter into bits and with your fingertips or a pastry blender blend into flour mixture until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Lightly beat 1 whole egg with egg yolk. Make a well in center of flour mixture and pour in yeast and egg mixtures, currants, raisins, and zests. Stir mixture until a dough is formed. Transfer dough to a floured surface and with floured hands knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Let dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Butter 2 large baking sheets, or line with parchment paper.

On a floured surface with floured hands knead dough briefly and form into two 12-inch-long logs. Cut each log crosswise into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Let buns rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

While buns are rising, lightly beat remaining egg with superfine sugar to make an egg glaze.

Brush buns with egg glaze.

Bake buns in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer buns to a rack to cool slightly.

Combine water, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk and mix until smooth. If it seems too thin, add more powdered sugar until it reached piping consistency. Place icing mixture in icing bag and pipe crosses onto the top of each bun.

Buns may be made 1 week ahead and frozen, wrapped in foil and put in a sealable plastic bag. Thaw buns and reheat before serving. Serve buns warm or at room temperature.


Mini Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies

April 21, 2011

What a fantastic treat for Easter! I’m sure they must be a favourite of the Easter Bunny and are definitely one of my favourites now too! These cookies are incredibly moist, and enticingly spicy.

Sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, which works great with the sweet cream cheese frosting sandwiched between. Believe me the cookies are delicious on their own, but oh, with the addition of that creamy filling…just heavenly!

These little bite-sized morsels are completely addictive. And how fun! You get your own personal little carrot cake! Maine is definitely on to something…Who wouldn’t love a whoopie pie?!

Mini Carrot Whoopie Pies

Slightly Adapted from Craving Chronicles (If you haven’t been to this blog you are missing out! Gorgeous photos!)

Makes 12 Mini Whoopie Pies (filled cookies)

Ingredients

3/4 cup golden raisins (2 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 + 3 tablespoons cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup finely grated carrots (2 medium or 4 small)
1 cup walnuts (3 ounces), chopped

8 ounces cream cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Place raisins in a small bowl and add enough hot water to cover. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, then drain thoroughly and pat dry.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, sugars, egg and vanilla until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in carrots, walnuts and raisins on low speed. Add flour mixture and beat just until combined. Set dough in refrigerator to chill for 15-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

Working with one baking sheet at a time, drop 1Tablespoons of dough per cookie onto baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake each sheet separately, 13-15 minutes or until centers spring back to the touch. Cool on pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer, scraping down sides with a spatula as needed, until smooth. Add powdered sugar slowly, only a couple of tablespoons at a time and vanilla. Mix until a thick frosting consistency is reached, adding more powdered  sugar as necessary.

If making ahead, store cookies at room temperature and frosting in refrigerator. Frost cookies before serving.


Chicken Potpie

April 15, 2011

My husband LOVES Chicken Potpie. I don’t know many folks that don’t. This nostalgic dish can truly warm body and soul on a damp, rainy day. A hearty, delicious, tried and true comfort food. With the dreaded “tax day” coming up (not today, April 15th, but Monday April 18th this year due to the extension) there are probably more than a few out there who might need some comfort! This recipe is mouth-watering, very easy to make and will go a long way towards soothing your frayed and frazzled nerves. You begin by preparing the buttery, flaky pastry dough, guaranteed to bake to a beautiful golden brown. You saute the veggies.

veggies cooking

Once done, you add them, along with the shredded chicken to a savory, thick gravy. After the potpie filling has cooled for about an hour, you simply assemble the pies and pop them into the oven. I made several different portion sizes. The version pictured above was baked in a large popover pan and is a good lunch sized portion. I baked some in 7 oz. ramekins for the petite appetites,

Petite Pies

as well as some in large 22 oz.-“hungry man” sized ramekins.

The Hungry Man!

Believe me, once you bite into one of these deliciously gratifying pies, you will feel your mood lift and will swear the skies actually brighten! Get creative and make some of these today. Your family will go wild!

Mmmmm! How can you resist?!

Chicken Potpie

Ingredients:

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 pound, quartered Button Mushrooms

1 Cup chopped Leeks, white and pale green parts

1/2 Cup Carrots, finely diced

1/3 Cup fresh or thawed frozen peas

1/3 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon All-purpose flour

4 1/2 Cups Chicken stock or broth

1/3 Cup Dry Sherry

2 teaspoons fresh Tarragon, minced

4 Cups cooked, shredded Chicken (rotisserie chicken works great!?

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Double-Crust flaky pastry dough (see below for recipe)

1 Large egg

Ingredients for Double-Crust Pastry Dough:

2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 cup plus 5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, chilled

1/2 Cup Ice Water

Directions for the Pastry Dough:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Cut the butter into chucks and scatter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture just until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of peas. ( I actually do this in the food processor. It takes about 5-6 pulses to get the flour butter mixture to have that coarse meal appearance.)

Drizzle the ice water over the flour mixture 1 tablespoon at a time and either mix with a fork or pulse your food processor after each addition. The dough should be crumbly and will not hold together on its own but will when gathered into a ball and compressed with your hands. If it is too dry, add a bit more ice water. Again 1 Tablespoon at a time.

Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Can be made ahead and frozen for up to 2 months.

Now you are ready to begin making the Chicken Potpie filling.

Directions for Chicken Potpie:

In a large frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in the leeks and carrots, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the peas.

In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and let bubble gently for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the stock and sherry and then the tarragon. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Stir in the shredded chicken and the mushroom-leek mixture and season with salt and pepper. Let cool until lukewarm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spoon the chicken mixture into six 1 1/2 cup ovenproof soup crocks or ramekins. Or if you’d like to make the smaller popover shaped chicken potpies as pictured above, lightly grease the individual wells of a large popover pan. Line each well with pastry dough making sure there are no holes in the pastry lining and that it is snug against the walls of the well. Work the pastry so that it comes up just over the edge of the well so that you can easily attach a lid. Cut your lids out to be slightly larger than the diameter of the popover well. Poke a couple of holes is the lid so that steam can escape during baking. Fill the pastry lined wells with the Chicken Potpie mixture. Brush the underside of the lid with the egg wash. Place lid on the top of the individual pie and crimp around the edges. Brush the top of each pie with the egg wash.

If you are using ramekins, after you have filled them, place the pastry dough on a lightly floured work surface and dust the top with flour. (If the dough is chilled hard, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes until it begins to soften before rolling it out.) Roll it out into a rectangle about 20 x 13 inches and 1/8 inch thick. Using a 6-inch saucer as a template, use a knife to cup out 6 rounds. Beat the egg with a pinch of salt. Lightly brush each round with the egg. Place 1 round, egg side down, over each ramekin, keeping the pastry taut and pressing it around the ramekin edges to adhere. Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Lightly brush the tops with the egg. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 25 minutes. If you are making the popover sized pies, you will likely be able to reduce your cooking time to 15 minutes. Transfer each ramekin or popover to a dinner plate and serve.

Recipe from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food by Rick Rodgers


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