Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mini Vanilla Sprinkle Cupcakes

I like this vanilla cupcake recipe due to the fact that it only makes 6 medium sized cupcakes. Most recipes make anywhere between 12 and 18, and in my house only two of us out of six have real sweet tooths, so this means there are always some cupcakes left sitting uneaten!

Thats why I used this recipe to make mini cupcakes. I've had these adorable little colourful liners sitting in the cupboard for a while, and just had to use them up. They're perfectly two-bite sized, and something my mum pointed out would be good to serve with tea when we have guests over as they make less mess than conventional cupcakes!

Of course, if you put your spinkles to good use like I did, they would look beautiful at a birthday party.
All I know is, this recipe suits me and my waist line just fine!

Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes 6 normal, or 20 mini cupcakes
Half cup (90g) soft butter
Half cup (110g) caster sugar
Half tspn vanilla essence
1 large egg
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour
2 tblspn milk
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla essence mixing well. Slowly sift the flour into the mixture incorporating well and finally add the milk. Divide equally into cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes for normal sized cupcakes, or 10 minutes for mini cupcakes. They should appear a nice golden yellow. Leave to cool before icing and decorating with sprinkles.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hearts All Around

Valentines was something of a special one this year. As it was the first time we would have all three couples in the house together (mum and dad, sister and brother-in-law, me and hubby!) - not forgetting our little munchkin of a niece - the sis and I decided to set about creating a small party!
Since my niece is diabetic we didn't really want to make anything sugar based. The men were taking care of the barbeque dinner, so we decided on a simple addition of fruit heart kabobs and heart shaped chicken pie pastries.

There are so many craft blogs around now where you can print free downloadables to use for your party, whatever the theme. We printed a Valentine banner from Catch My Party and fun conversation heart cake toppers from The Party Dress which we used as props for taking fun photos. In addition we made our own heart print outs using Photoshop and added our own messages using a sharpie. Cut out and attach to a lollipop or popsicle stick and you have an easy instant prop to use in a photobooth style set-up!

Strawberry and Watermelon Fruit Kabobs

Taken from Style Me Pretty

Popsicle sticks/ wooden skewers
1" Watermelon slices
Fresh large strawberries
Small heart cutter

Slice the strawberries in half and using a heart cutter cut out hearts shapes. Similarly use the cutter to cut out hearts in the watermelon slices. Slide onto sticks in an alternating manner and keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sugar Cookies Go Tribal

Like most girls born and brought up in Britain, I've long been an avid follower of fashion trends. Whether I followed trends religiously or not, I used to enjoy getting my monthly Elle subscription and perusing the highstreet shops on a weekly basis, wanting to know which handbag was currently coveted by celebrities and who wore what at the Grammy's (Rihanna looked great at this years!). Moving to Dubai just magnified everything two-fold since here is where luxury fashion is offered in abundance and you really can't escape the elaborate shop windows displays and huge billboards.
However that all changed after I got married and moved to Zanzibar! As a tiny island on the east coast of Africa its safe to say that for the first time in my life I had no idea what was the 'in' thing. Because my focus changed (busy baking!!) it was only on the rare off-chance when I browsed websites online that I got to have a taste of what was happening in "consumer land". And, well, one trend has surely stood out over the past year that there was no way even I could have missed it...
The tribal trend has been everywhere. Having been translated from the runway onto the highstreet, tribal has given fashion a fun splash of pattern and colour. From Moroccan to African and Aztec prints, I've been especially loving the way its been used in nail art, and I am the proud owner of a pair of Aztec print harem pants.
And so that is where my idea for these cookies came about..!
I have to admit I'm terrible at decorating cookies, as much as I love the idea of it, and everytime I look at a royal icing recipe it just seems to daunting and complicated for me to attempt ( I wrong?). So I just used good old icing pens and buttercream frosting. But I've been wanting to make these tribal inspired sugar cookies for a while, because I thought it was just too brilliant an idea to pass up on as it provided the perfect opportunity for a fun cookie. And whats more fun for a girl than the combination of fashion and cookies?!
I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out, though I'm sure royal icing would have been much much easier in terms of flooding and filling areas.
This sugar cookie recipe is a goto recipe for me which I found on the back of a Wiltons product package. It produces lovely soft biscuits with crisp edges and a beautiful golden colour. Cut using cookie cutters into whatever shape you like, and as a blank canvas for decorating these cookies are all yours!
Sugar Cookies
Makes 24 cookies
1 cup softened butter
1 and a half cups caster or refined sugar
1 egg
1 and a half teaspoons vanilla essence
2 and three quarter cups all-purpose flour
2 tspns baking powder
Half tspn salt
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a baking tray with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla essence. In a seperate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture one cup at a time, slowly forming into a soft dough. Divide the dough into two or three, and roll out on a floured surface to a 3-4mm thickness. Using a cookie cutter, cut out shapes and place onto baking tray. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Leave to cool before decorating.
N.B. You will find that the dough is quite soft and breaks easily so care does need to be taken when cutting out the shapes and transferring to tray, but if you find the dough to be too soft just work in a little more flour.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Strawberry Nutella Poptarts

Poptarts take me back to school days when Kellogs Poptarts used to appear in all the after school ad-breaks on TV. I have to confess I was never a really big fan of them as on the off chance that we did buy a box I found they were too overly sweet to eat for breakfast and preferred something else when the sweet tooth craving did attack!

This poptart recipe however appealed to me mainly on the basis that they are homemade and use ingredients I can't find fault with. Strawberry jam, nutella, fresh strawberries... the perfect amount of sweet. I love the way Jessica from The Novice Chef made hers so personal and cute with the heart cut strawberries. Whats more, I like that the filling is versatile and can be played around with. Since we have a little diabetic in the house I swapped the nutella and jam in a couple of the tarts with mashed strawberries instead. My mum also requested her nutella to be mixed in with chopped hazelnuts and I sprinkled cinnamon onto the pastry as an added touch.

I also chose to make smaller versions than what the original recipe calls for, but really you can cut the pastry to your own size and taste.

Strawberry Nutella Poptarts

Recipe adapted from The Novice Chef

Makes 9 mini poptarts

1 egg yolk mixed with a little water
1 package defrosted short puff pastry
Nutella jar
Strawberry jam jar
6-8 large strawberrys sliced thinly
Caster sugar
Cinnamon powder (optional)
Small heart cutter (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and cover a baking tray with parchment paper. Set aside a small bowl with the egg yolk. Using a small heart cutter or knife, cut out hearts from the strawberry slices and also keep aside. 
Meanwhile roll out the pastry until it is pretty thin - you want to be able to get the pastry to be as thin as possible.  Using a large knife cut out small rectangles or squares, depending on your presentation taste, to about 3 by 2 inches, and making about 18 squares or rectangles. There should be enough space to fit a strawberry heart on the pastry with room left around to seal the top and bottom edge. 
Take half of the squares and place a strawberry heart in the centre of the pastry to use as a guide in cutting out a heart. If you used a heart cutter for the strawberries, you can just use the same cutter to cut out the hearts in the pastry. 
On the other remaining halves of the pastry squares spread a heap of nutella into the centre, with room around the edges to seal, and then add the strawberry jam on top in a similar manner. Place a heart strawberry in the middle and neatly place a pastry square with the heart cut out of its centre on top. Seal the edges using the end of a fork, and brush pastry with the egg yolk. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and let cool for a few minutes before serving. 
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