Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Banana Nut Bread

There's nothing easier to make than a loaf cake. Also I can't think of a proper introduction for a Banana bread. I mean, they're cheap to make and virtually impossible to mess-up, not to mention you don't need to dirty up a mixer to make it.

Since I've been living at home this month, it has been infinitely easier to bake (a perfect combination of my parents buying groceries and not having to work). Since my mother buys bananas every week to take in her lunch, there was an occasion where the bananas ripened at lightening speed and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to make my mother's Banana Nut Bread recipe.

Banana Nut Bread 
-1 3/4 cups flour
-2 tsp. baking powder
-1/4 tsp. baking soda
-3/4 tsp. salt
-1/8 tsp. nutmeg
-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
-1/3 cup shortening
-2/3 cup granulated sugar
-2 well beaten eggs
-1 cup well mashed bananas (2 large or 3 medium)

I recommend preparing the loaf with a fork and later a spatula. When the batter is transferred to the pan, it should have strings of banana in it and this is what will keep it like a rustic, moist loaf rather than a fluffy cake (stirring it by hand adds less air into the batter).

Sift together dry ingredients.

Cream together shortening and sugar. Add beaten eggs.

Add alternatively: bananas and dry ingredients. Lastly, stir in 1 cup chopped walnuts. 

Turn batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 1-1 1/4 hrs.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Royal Baby Sugar Cookies

On July 22, HRH Prince George of Cambridge was born. Upon hearing that the Duchess was in labour all I could think was 'this event needs cookies!'. My goal was finish these cookies in time with the announcement of the name because I knew I couldn't have them done by the time he was going to be born. This would of course be the perfect moment for me to make a mental note and remind myself that my baking goals are always, always set too high. Naturally, yesterday was the day I found time to make a trip to my favourite baking and kitchen store and pick up the cookie cutters I needed (also a 100 pack of Ateco disposable piping bags which was both a deal and necessary since the local Bulk Barn closed down where one could buy individual piping bags and not get ripped off by Wilton).

For instructions on decorating with royal icing see my post here. For the crowns I used Crystal Colors powder food colouring in Antique Gold and mixed it with vodka (any alcohol base will do).

As you can see with my pastel coloured union flag, my piping tends to get messy when I finish my line and I get a raised area where the icing clumps together. Does anyone have any tips on how to make this smoother and avoid this?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Blackberry Cupcakes

So I'm just going to pretend that there wasn't an awkward hiatus.

You might recall that I mentioned last summer I made the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe and conveniently lost the photos, which resulted in me never writing a post on them. On the off-chance you do remember me mentioning these cupcakes, fear not! I made them again with the photos and everything!

(Mini) Vanilla Cupcakes (makes 24+ mini) - adapted from here
- 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
- 1 tsp. vinegar
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp. cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tins.

In a large bowl combine milk and vinegar and set aside for a few minutes.

Add sugar, oil and vanilla and whisk until foamy.

Sift remaining dry ingredients and whisk until no lumps remain.

This batter is very thin so I poured it into a squeeze bottle to fill the cupcake liners approx. 3/4 full. I had remaining batter although I did not use it so I can't say how many more cupcakes it would have filled. If I had to guess I would say at least a half dozen.

Bake for 9-14 minutes.

Since blackberries were coming into season I thought to add a twist to the cupcakes this time. Ironically, I couldn't find any Ontario blackberries.

Blackberry Cream Cheese Filling:
- 1/2 cup of cream cheese
- 2 tbsp. milk
- 2 tbsp. blackberry syrup (alternatively you could use a puree with some added sugar)

 Combine ingredients and whisk until smooth.

Using a BBQ skewer, carve a cylindrical hole out of the cupcake. 

Fill a piping bag with blackberry filling. Insert tip into the hole and fill the hole. Remove any extra icing.

Wash and rinse a dozen blackberries. Cut each blackberry in half. Insert blackberry over the hole with the cut side face up.

Using a petal tip and white buttercream, pipe petals around the blackberry. Optional: sprinkle some black decorators sugar over the blackberry.

You'll be hearing from me soon. I promise. Scout's honour. Pinky swear. etc. etc.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Past Three Months

I realize I haven't been active in the past three months and while I haven't had the time to bake it does not mean that I haven't done anything "blog-worthy".

For Christmas this year I baked Eggnog Macarons (of which I have no photos). I baked three batches on Dec. 23 before I decided they looked good enough to serve my friends and family. I think that was enough macaron baking to satisfy me for another year.

After Christmas I went on a family vacation to London, England. I wanted nothing more than to go to Peggy Porschen's bakery while I was there as she has been my cake decorating idol since I started baking. Of course, the one time in my life (thus far) I'd had a chance to taste something of her's, her bakery was closed for the entire length of our trip, reopening a couple days after we'd left.

Fast forward a bit to March...and here I am, not baking anything delicious and preoccupied with what am I going to bake for Easter (and my dad's birthday which is Easter Monday this year). Well as fate should have it (or perhaps the baking gods intervened) Anna Olsen, of Food Network fame, not only happens to be an alumni of my school (in politics, no less) but was visiting and speaking on behalf of the Queen's Student Alumni Association. So I went, bought a cookbook, and was completely starstruck getting it signed!


Her talk was great, all about the great seasons we are blessed with in Southern Ontario and wonderful local produce we have in Canada. She gave the audience tips on dressing for the camera (never wear black!) and that on Tuesdays they film the time lapses for her show. She also shared that in every episode of her show Bake with Anna Olsen, you can find the mini chiffon cakes she baked in the first episode. By far, the best moment was (surprisingly not when someone asked her out to dinner) but when someone asked her about the most difficult thing to bake, to which she answered "French Macarons"!

 It was an amazing opportunity to hear from her as an alumni and celebrity chef and her new cookbook will definitely inspire me to come up with something delicious for Easter and will fuel me with (NOT CUPCAKE) recipes for the summer.