29 Jan 2010

Granny is the Best!

Posted by PastryPrincess at 02:50 0 comments Links to this post
I love my granny. You think you have the best granny in the world? Oh no, there's no better granny than mine. Seriously. She's the cutest little thing ever, I'd like to put her in my purse and take her everywhere I go...

You might doubt me but let me tell you more about my granny.

 My granny's nickname is Omel and she's turning 87 in a bit over a month but you would never guess she's that old. She grew up during World War II in which her house was bombed to the ground and her brother was shot. But she also met my granddad and they were married for over 60 years when he passed away when I was 18. She grew up in Cologne, Germany, an area that is known for it's humour and carnival and she is a cheeky one, let me tell you! My granny is small and soft, cuddly and cosy and she gets rosy cheeks as soon as she's had half a glass of wine. She's quite well-travelled for someone of her generation and she's always been very welcoming to all the visitors from around the world we've brought over to her place even though she doesn't speak any foreign languages and she always makes an effort.

I used to stay with her for a week of my school holidays and we would go hiking, eat all my favourite foods and most importantly bake. My mum is a great cook but she never bakes and so I loved when my granny would show me how to bake cakes and we'd be in the kitchen for hours while she would tell me funny stories from her childhood. I still know all these anecdotes off by heart and being in the kitchen with my granny is one my fondest memories. I think it's from her that I get the cooking and baking gene, obviously also passed on somewhat through my mum. My granny cooks traditional, hearty and wholesome German food that is comforting and makes you feel at home. She has a great butcher and always gets the best filet of beef steaks and her cakes are delicious. A running gag in our family is that she once used flavoured creemcheese with herbs instead of the plain one which made eating the meant-to-be fruity cake an interesting experience...!

I have always enjoyed helping her make Spätzle, a certain type of German pasta (you spread the dough on to a wooden board and then vigoriously scrape little bits off with a knife and chuck'em into the boiling water), and yeast dumplings with vanilla custard. I adore the sweet smell of yeast dough and its smooth, yummy texture and for obvious reasons believe that my granny's skin feels like exactly that yeast dough and I mean that in a positive way! Yummy, you just want to smother her with kisses. Seriously all the doughs she makes I just want to eat straight away because they're so good. She would always tell me I'd get an upset tummy from eating all the raw dough but of course I never did and so to this day I still devour her doughs and batters prematurely, they're just too good!
Take this waffle batter she mad last weekend for instance, hmmm.... I don't know her recipe for them but the batter had something slightly orangey and light to it and was very yummy. I ate several spoonfuls, just couldn't resist. Good thing she doesn't mind! =) I made half of the batch in the waffle iron though and we had them with cherries in a bit of a cherry sauce, very yummy. It's such an easy and delicious treat but somehow we tend to forget about it...

Unfortunately though my granny is not really interested in too modern foods i.e. those she might not know. Muffins for example would be quite critical. If she ever gave them a try she would make this very particular face and say "....interesting..." and you'd know it wasn't really her thing but mainly because she doesn't know it. So when I bake things and tell her about them she is very enthusiastic, wants to try them but when I explain to her what they are she will say "It wouldn't be known" which translates to I don't know it - I probably won't like it so I won't eat it. But what can you do... she would never like brownies or a chocolate-chip cookie, they're simply not her thing, too modern. On the other hand she enjoys eating out in restaurants and she loves going to this chinese buffet place in her tiny town! Spring rolls yes but muffins no... I can't say I get her.
But I do love talking to her because we're close and I like to tell her all sorts of things and she does the same with me, it's a very special bond we have. So when I went to see her last weekend, because I hadn't been around since early December, she gave me my belated birthday present and let me tell you it was gooooood... and made us cry a little bit, too. It was all very well concealed, I couldnt have guessed in a million years. As it turned out I got a massive art-déco box filled with the most gorgeous and extraordinary artisan chocolates and truffles , there was a sweet card with money in it and then a nondescript looking something wrapped in tissue, hmm....In the end it was a beautiful and special ring my granny gave to me because it had been the last one my granddad had ever given to her and I just thought that it was such a special gesture.
That's exactly it though, I feel like everything about my granny is special and our bond, too. I'm a granny's girl and I love this woman more than I can say. She drives me nuts sometimes but she is so sweet and warm, giving, adorable, funny, sad, clever, a good cook and baker and a good home economics lady, she listens to me, only ever wants the best for me and supports everything I do, she speaks her own laguage and I don't ever want to be without her.
My granny rocks. She uses her fax machine and portable phone, she watches dvd's, records stuff and has a mobile phone, too. How cool is that? And still she can be more stubborn than anybody when it comes to me wanting her to go see a certain doctor or whatever because at her age there's always little aches etc that can be improved but she isn't having any of it....As a matter of fact she just deliberately broke a promise she had given me sometime ago and we had even shaken hands on it! That's bold granny, bold!

In a nutshell, I have the bestest granny in the world and I couldn't love her more... Stay the way you are Omel and take good care of yourself my dear, no more falling down the basement stairs and such other shenanigans!!!

BIG, best NEWS !!! ... and some chocolate

Posted by PastryPrincess at 01:20 2 comments Links to this post
Today I received the long-awaited, biggest, most amazing news EVER! Yes! Awesome!
Today is the first day of the rest of my life. My true foodie, culinary life that is, yay!
I can reveal that the application I posted two weeks ago was successful, I got accepted for...

..... drum roll please .....

Le Grand Diplôme at Le Cordon Bleu London Culinary Arts Institute!!!

I know, incredible! It has been my ultimate dream to study there for a few years now and finally my dream is coming true and I couldn't be happier. When I went to London in December I visited the school too, very excitedly of course, and absolutely loved it. It was so international, people were really nice and welcoming albeit being in the middle of final exams and I was truely impressed by what they did. The development from one level to the other is incredible and all I thought was that I simply couldn't wait to be able to make all these things myself. It's such a world-renowned, professional culinary institution with lots of tradition and I can't wait to be part of it, I'm sure it's worth every penny and more. Not only will I be a fully trained chef but a pastry chef as well and I'm ready to conquer the culinary world!

But wait, there's more... A very popular, well-known tv show wants to document my move to London and the beginning of my studies, how crazy is that? It's been a whirlwind of a week, let me tell you. On Monday morning I received an e-mail from the tv production company wanting to interview me on the phone because they'd be very interested in my story. I didn't expect that at all but as I wouldn't mind having my own food-realted tv show one day I didn't midn one bit, there's only advantaged to it after all. The girl I spoke to was really nice and she seemed tobe very into my story and going to Le Cordon Bleu and honestly, who wouldn't?! ;o) Well anyway, she said they would send over a camera team to my house next Tuesday to shoot some sort of application / preview video describing my adventure ahead which they would then show to the tv station and they will either give it the green light for production or not. But I'm pretty confident they will, I like to entertain people and be the centre of attention after all, hahaha.
My family is freaking out, especially my boyfriend and sister because they will have to be on tape with me since I need somebody to interact with and they're both quite shy around new people and all that, oh boy. ;P They're both mental at any other given time so I hope they'll be able to loosen up and be good fun! I will let you know how it goes and whether it's going to get get picked up or not. Keep your fingers crossed!

What's the best way to celebrate? With chocolate, that's right. They tv crew want to film me cooking or baking something but as I mentioned before our oven is sorta broken / weird / whateva, there won't be much time and I'm a wee bit freaked out by being watched. So I guess I agree with what they said and that's that I should make chocolates, easy enough, eh? What kind of truffles though, I want them to look impressive and taste great with little effort after all...!?! If you've any fool-proof recipes, pleeeaaaasseeee let me know, okay? I need your help, seriously. Much appreciated.

Anyway, if I can't come up with anything amazing ( I was considering Mojito or Margarita inspired truffles, what do you reckon? ) I could always make the dark chocolate Balsamic Vinegar and Basil truffles rolled in cocoa. They were very good, whipped up in no time and loosely based on Giada's Balsamic Chocolate truffles. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/balsamic-chocolate-truffles-recipe/index.html
I would double the amount of ingredients though because I only made a tiny batch as I was in the middle of preparing lots of other things at the same time and I eyeballed most of the ingredients anyway, sorry. Next time I'll use more fresh basil because you coul not really taste it sufficiently I thought and it works so well with the dark chocolate and especially the balsamic vinegar. Of course you can use plain old balsamic vinegar but I actually used balsamic drizzle because I believe it has more depth and less acidity.

Dark Chocolate Balsamic Basil Truffles

Makes for 10 truffles

Ingredients:
100 gr dark chocolate
1-2 normal teaspoons of balsamic vinegar or balsamic drizzle, to taste
ca. 5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
(pinch of salt)
cream (eyeball it but it won't be more than a few splashes)
a few spoon-fulls of cocoa powder

Chop up the chocolate and melt it in a double boiler. Set aside and let cool slightly. In a glass mix the balsamic, the optional salt and a spoon or 2 of cream until combined and add to the melted chocolate. Stir until well combined and a smooth, velvety ganache texture is achieved. If you think the mixture is too firm, carefully add a little bit of cream but you don't want the ganache to become to liquid. When you're satisfied with the texture add in the chopped basil, cover the bowl with clingfilm and let the ganache set for 2 hours in the fridge.
Dust your hands with a bit of cocoa, pick up small portions of ganache at a time and roll them in your hands until small balls have formed. Roll them in the cocoa powder and chill them for another hours. Store them in your fridge and consume within a couple of days.


These truffles weren't all though folks, I also made a chocolate bar. You can never have enough chocolate after all, can you? Last week I bought a mould for three 100 gr chocolate bars and of course I had to put them to use straight away. The possibilities for new creations these give you are never-ending and I got inspired. Big time. I wanted to start off with a simple chocolate though and as for some reason I can't stop thinking about citrus fruits and olive oil recently it only made sense to make olive oil and lemon chocolate.

Again you couldn't really taste the olive oil because if you used more in order to get a stronger flavour the chocolate wouldn't firm up and you would not be able to achieve a proper chocolate bar. Mine was still a tiny bit softer and had a silkier texture than your generic supermarket chocolate but it was still firm enough to get it out of the mould. My tip to you though, even if you're as impatient as me... wait for the chocolate to set for at least 2 hours because otherwise you will be able to see finger prints et (yep, that's exactly what you can see as something white-ish in the pictures...)
I also have to admit that I cheated or rather took a short-cut in so far that I didn't really temper the chocolate because I only bought a thermometer yesterday (for future experiments) and so just had to go with my gut-feeling. Worked out fine in the end and my family absolitely loved the chocolate and devoured it in a matter of minutes. Basically I didn't really get to try my own chocolate because by the time I wanted to it was already gone... I take that as a compliment, hehe.
Lemon and Olive Oil Milk Chocolate Bar

100 gr milk chocolate
1-2 teaspoons of olive oil (go easy on it and completely stir it in before adding more!)
the zest of a ripe lemon

Wash the lemon under hot water and zest it. You won't need the zest of a whole lemon, depending on how lemon-y and tangy you want your chocolate to be, it won't be tart though, don't worry.
Roughly chop the milk chocolate and carefully melt it in a double-boiler. Let it cool slightly and mix in some olive oil, a few drops at a time, until well combined. Only when you completely mix in the oil will you know how much more liquid it is making the chocolate so don't go overboard!
Pour the chocolate into the clean and slightly cooled mould and knock it on the table a few times to get rid of any air. Finally sprinkle on the lemon zest and chill the chocolate for a few hours before carefully removing the bar from the mould. Don't place the mould directly onto the glas in your fridge, it would be too cold. I recommend storing the chocolate wrapped in cling film and in your fridge because it might melt more easily due to the oil. The chocolate bar also makes for a nice gift!

28 Jan 2010

Insomnia and midnight baking

Posted by PastryPrincess at 23:45 0 comments Links to this post
Sleep... oh blissful, relaxing, invigorating snooozy-snooze dose of Zzzzzzz. I really hope you'll grace me with your presence tonight, oh please! You might have wondered where I'm at and I can tell you I'm still here - or the shadow of me that is, looking like something that was puked up sometime ago. TMI? Tough! ;P

Ever since I posted my application (and started this blog ... that was 2 long weeks ago!) I haven't been able to sleep. At all. I guess that happens when nothing's ever been this important to you but it sucks nonetheless - release me from my misery already! Don't tell me anxiety and suspense is half the fun, my crankyness ( or cranky-poo, as my boyfriend calls me these days ) would tell you otherwise. As I've found out there's different levels of insomnia-related craziness: First you just feel tired, then comes the bad mood followed by big, nasty crankiness. Seriously, everything annoyed me! Then it's on to brutal exhaustion, not caring that you can't press the pause button to your life. It's indeed sort of inconvenient when you become so thin-skinned and hyper-sensitive that you feel like breaking-down and crying when you get up in the morning and the simple noise of a ringing phone can lead to madness. Basically you're never really present, awake anymore so you can't do anything. Hence I didn't write on my blog, I thought calm would do me good, but it didn't make any difference...

When I started this blog I got hooked, addicted and actually started thinking in blog posts. I wanted to write and post all the time and my boyfriend was already fearing I'd end up as an in-the-basement-living geeky eremite, you get the picture? The thing is I'm an either 200% or 0% kinda person, there's no happy middle for me. So I decided to turn it down a notch until I had actually made more stuff to post and write about, which happened very quickly. I was a very busy bee and even built a lightbox made of canvas from the diy store in order to be able to take better pictures and I was very proud of the result. There I was making chocolates, cereal bars, salads, muffins and cookies, trying to work on my food stylist and photography skills, all the while desperately needing some shuteye. At the back of my head I felt guilty, thinking I should really get a groove on and write on my blog but always procrastinating and hoping I'd be more alert the next day... in vain.

Yes, yes, you might have noticed it too, the appearance of my insomnia coincides with me starting this blog - is that weird? One of my best friends simply told me I should delete it so... she mustn't get it, I don't want to stop! Anyway, having said that my problem is that instead of being able to go to sleep or sleep through the night my thoughts starts spinning, information overload. No particular thoughts, just unwelcome randomness or rather my subconscious freaking out even though it seems to be fine during the day. Hmmm...?!?

I went to see different people who offered me different and way too time-consuming solutions and I ended up getting herbal sleeping pills and being told by the pharmacist that I'd have to consult a doctor should my insomnia continue. I had great hopes but even after almost overdosing on the pills I wasn't able to sleep, they only made me feel relaxed and kinda woozy. Nights have been a nightmare and I dread having to go to bed because I know I'll be tossing and turning, not being able to find rest. Today I finally did go to see a doctor and he prescribed proper, chemical pills which will hopefully make me conk out in the next couple of hours! But right now I'm stilly too hyper and exstatic because of the amazing news I received today and the craziness of this week. So many news, so little time...!!! I'd like to go out and celebrate but there's nobody around to party with right now and so I'll have to wait until tomorrow.

If you struggle to go to sleep maybe you should read this post and it'll bore you so much it'll make you pass out, hahaha! ;o)

Let's not completely forget about my baking though, it kept me occupied until past 4 a.m. last Sunday after all. Why not be productive if you can't sleep anyway I thought. I hadn't anticipated staying up this late though but our stupid oven must be broken because it wouldn't properly heat up and stuff needed forever to be done and it was like a game of luck whether it would come out alright or not. I made olive-oil and lime cookies which were extremely limey and a little tangy but didn't taste the least of olive oil which I found a bit disappointing - I love EVOO! For some reason, must have been my weariness, I formed the moist dough into normal cookies after chilling it and they came out nice and chewy but I think they were actually meant to be a LOT smaller and therefore probably with a slightly different texture, too. Whatevs, still good. ;o) Oh, they had little hollows that were filled with lime icing and candied lime peel after baking - be prepared for a full-on lime shock!
I found the recipe in a booklet by a German magazine, "Brigitte". Shall I translate it for you?

Lime and Olive Oil Cookies
Ingredients:

Dough:
1-2 limes
40 gr candied lime peel
100 gr caster sugar
150 gr flour
1/2 tablespoons baking powder
pinch of salt
75 ml olive oil ( optional: lemon-infused olive oil )
2 tablespoons milk
about 50 gr of sugar for coating

Decoration:
40 gr candied lime peel
about 50 gr confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice


For the dough:
Wash limes under hot water, dray and zest the lime, then juice it. Mix 75 grams of sugar and the candied lime peel in a food processor until it's finely ground.
Preheat conventional oven to 180°C (ca. 350F) or fan oven to 160°C and gas 3.
In a bowl mix flour, baking powder, salt, the sugar-lime peel mixture and add olive oil, milk, lime zest and 2 tablespoons of lime juice. Use the dough hooks of your hand mixer and then knead the dough with your hands.
Line a baking tray with non-stick baking parchment, form about 35 little balls of dough, roll them in caster sugar and place them on the tray. Use your fingers to press them down a little so a small well forms.
Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes or until they are golden brown and let them cool on a cooling rack.

For the icing:
Roughly chop the candied lime peel. Mix the confectioner's sugar and lime juice until you get a liquid, creamy icing. Pour a little bit of icing into the wells in every cookie, sprinkle with some candied lime peel and let them dry. Ready to eat, enjoy with a glass of milk!

19 Jan 2010

Honeycomb and a bit of Chemistry

Posted by PastryPrincess at 21:22 1 comments Links to this post



Do you know British cook Nigella Lawson? Cook, that's right, she's not a professional chef but her food is bad-ass! She's a busy, voluptuous London-based mother of two and she makes cooking look incredibly sexy. I can only wish I ever looked half as flirtatious when I'm in the kitchen! Somehow watching her show makes me feel a bit naughty, do you know what I mean? She just has this way of being coquet and everything she does looks unbelievably sensual and her usual sneaking to the fridge and having a midnight snack makes her very likeable, not only for men!

Anyway, when I watched her Express show recently, she made what she called "Hokey-Pokey" - a mostly British sweet called honeycomb because of it's look and bubble-infused texture.
I never even thought about making it at home but when I realized how simple it was and how fun it looked, I decided to give it a try. Basically it's not much more than a bit of different types of sugar and a little chemical reaction thrown in which is basically what makes it look so cool!

People from America may not know what I'm talking about but if you've ever had a Cadbury Crunchie bar, this is exactly it!

 Actually I got a Crunchie bar and compared it to my own honeybomb, albeit not chocolate-covered, and the result is pretty much the same, just that the home-made stuff is more bubbly.

So here goes the recipe:

Nigella’s Honeycomb

Ingredients:
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 4 tbsps golden syrup ( or you can use half syrup half honey if you want )
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp bicarb (baking) soda

Place a sheet of non-stick baking paper on a tray.
Pour the syrup and sugar in a saucepan and mix them before you heat them up, because you shouldn’t stir the mixture while it’s heating up and boiling as it would go grainy. Gently melt the sugar and golden syrup over a medium heat and swirl the pan every so often until the sugar has dissolved.

Allow the mixture to come to the boil and allow it to colour slightly so it goes a lovely, not too deep golden brown. You have to keep a close eye on the mixture because it can go from perfectly fine to a tiny bit too dark and as a result tasting slightly burned in a matter of seconds!
 
Pull the mixture off the heat and quickly add the bicarb of soda. Mix thoroughly with a silicone spatula or metal spoon until it is just evenly combined (you don’t want to over-mix it or you’d loose some of the bubbles the chemical reaction created). When you add the bicarb soda the mixture will froth and bubble.

Pour the mixture out onto the prepared tray and allow for it to set for approximately 20 minutes. If the weather is particularly humid, it may not set completely and you will have to put it in the fridge for a a few minutes to firm it up.
Once set you can break it up into pieces and there is different ways to do this. You can carefully whack it with  a pestle and it will break easily, but don’t  be too rough because it will get very crumbly. If you would like to cover it so the pieces don’t fly all over the place, use baking paper or something similar but preferably not a towel because it might stick to it.

Honeycomb is very sweet (it’s mainly sugar after all!) and goes well with a cup of coffee. A very yum and common way to eat them is to dip the pieces in melted chocolate and let them cool or crumble them over ice-cream, which is especially good and gives great texture.





18 Jan 2010

Ladurée Macarons

Posted by PastryPrincess at 21:49 1 comments Links to this post
French macaroons are my new obsession ... these delicate, tiny and delicious pieces of heavenly indulgence. I've always found them incredibly elegant, feminine and pretty but I couldn't tell you why I'm bonkers about them all of the sudden, apart from the obvious reasons. It's their airiness and versatility and the fact that they're everything but simple, generic and they make me think of Paris which itself is representative of feminine elegance. I'm sure Ina Garten would be delighted... "They're gonna be delicious!" =)
Now that I think of it, it's probably when I read about famous shoe designer Christian Louboutin designing gift boxes for French pâtisserie brand Ladurée that I learned about their macaroons and became intrigued. As a fashion-conscious girl myself and having been found contemplating buying classic nude Louboutin peeptoes before, I was firstly more interested in owning something Sex-and-the-City-Carrie-like by the red-soled shoe artistthan the actual macaroons. Soon after I discovered Ladurée's website and researched macarons, I decided I definitely had to see and taste them for myself and looked up where to get them - thankfully in London (because they don't mail products at all, boo-hoo!), what a coincidence!

Having shown my boyfriend and London novice around town the day before and having done enough sightseeing it was finally time to make our way over to Harrod's, the world-famous, super posh and much-loved department store in Knightsbridge. I've been there many times and I love their massive, amazing food hall but somehow Ladurée had escaped my eyes to this very day.
  Knowing I had simply had to buy a few of these quite pricey but worth every penny delectables, I had a hard time trying to decide which flavours to pick. Neither did it help that the French sales assistant had a strong accent and a heavy cold, resulting in me having to make him repeat what he'd said to me about 5 times... how embarrassing. When he told me he was a Frenchman with a flu I had to laugh and told him he should have spoken French to me in the first place and we wouldn't have had any communication problems! What is it with French people trying to speak English and English speakers trying to speak French that makes them impossible to understand? Most other accents are fine but these two just don't go together at all.
Anyway, I did get my macaroons in the end and promised myself that I would be back very soon - thinking of Dublin where I would buy the biggest available Louboutin-filled box of macaroons available to treat myself. They didn't have those particular gift boxes in Harrod's, you see. Being a big old glutton I've now realized that these boxes don't come for free anyway and by now I'd rather spend the money on even more macaroons than on a fancy box! Which tells you I loved them, they were truly delicious. Even the rose one I had to eat over a month later, because I hadn't been at home for Christmas, when you're supposed to eat them within 3 days, but who counts? The flavours I had were Rose, Orange Blossom, Salted Caramel, Licorice (surprisingly good!), Red Berries and Chestnut but I would like to try every single one from their assortment soon. Read on and beware of drooling!

Feeling Philosophical ...

Posted by PastryPrincess at 19:05 0 comments Links to this post
It's hard not to be a little more philosophical and pensive these days... The book I'm momentarily reading, current events, the movie I watched last night and reality tv all had me thinking. I really feel very sorry for the people of Haiti, they had a terrible start to the new year and it's possibly one of the places in the world that could handle an unfortunate event like the least. The majority of people there weren't exactly well-off as it were and what with the bad infrastructure, humanitarian organizations have a hard time getting supplies to those most in need now.
I find it unbelievable that somebody ( I mean you, Pat Robertson! ) would suggest the Haitians deserved the earthquake because they made a pact with the devil when they bought back their island from France for 150 million. Not only does nobody deserve to experience this kind of tragedy and misery, but also it was not the devil, it was bad politics and too big a price tag on independence that bascially sealed the unfortunate fate of this Carribean country. It was poor to begin with and simply couldn't afford this sum paid and the republic went downhill after that, so the Haitian poverty is not the work of the devil, not that I believe there is such a thing.
To fittingly quote the spokesman of the White House: "It never ceases to amaze, that in times of amazing human suffering, somebody says something that could be so utterly stupid. But it, like clockwork, happens with some regularity."

Instead of concentrating on the obvious bad though, I would like to point out the good: this kind of disaster also brings out the good in many people and this needs to be appreciated! Apart from all the donations and world-wide sympathy, it's the aid workers on site and their tireless search for survivors that make all the difference. They still managed to salvage buried people from the rubble over 100 hours after the eartquake, even though people usually can't survive more than 72 hours without fluid. Talk bout miracles and keep hoping and helping!

As I mentioned I feel as if I'm surrounded by things that somehow touch me at the moment, no matter how random they are. For instance the MTV show "16 and pregnant" which then turned into "Teen Mom" and which follows around these young girls, trying to cope with having become young mums. Obviously people's opinions on this couldn't vary more but that's not what I'm concerned about right now. It's this really young couple from the show, Catelynn and Tyler, that has moved and brought me to tears several times. They come from difficult familial backgrounds and are often ating more grown-up than their own parents. Tyler's father is a convicted criminal offender and married to Catelynn's mother, but the 2 teenagers are from previous relationships respectively i.e. in no way related, don't worry. When Catelynn falls pregnant they decide to give up their baby girl "Carly" for adoption and it's certainly not an easy decision. You witness their heartache and dilemma and although the 2 of them are deeply in love and have the strongest relationship out of all the couples on the show, they want better for their child and for her not to grow up living in a trailer surrounded by a grandfather who's in and out of prison all the time. Surprisingly their families aren't very supportive of their decision and more naive than the teenagers. These are two remarkable young people and I wish them all the luck in the world and that they will have a great relationship with their little girl, whom they both love dearly.
I had never really given adoption much thought because you usually hear about adoptive parents rather than birth parents. The common perception seems to be that giving your child away is a purely selfish decision and that the parents mustn't have loved their child but this couple clearly showed that this is not necessarily the case at all. Full episodes are available on mtv.com and I can only recommend you watch it sometime...

Just like I can recommend the movie "The Invention of Lying" which I watched yesterday. It's funny and entertaining but unlike some other rom-coms it makes you think as well. Especially about what we really want from and in life, not what other people might expect us to do. That's a lesson I was just recently reminded of myself and I'm a strongly believe that you should follow your heart and believe in your dreams, I really do. It's only if you're happy within yourself that you can make others happy, too and what could be nicer?
The title of the book I'm reading is just as intriguing in a similar way ... kinda creepy. It's Cecelia Ahern's "Book of Tomorrow" and so I'm asking you: If you had to write your own book of tomorrow, what would it say, what are your dreams for the future?
I told you I was in a philosophical mood but I think I got it out of my system now.

Chocolates... oh, so pretty!

Posted by PastryPrincess at 17:31 0 comments Links to this post



Hmmm, selection boxes, how I love thee! I know Christmas is over and I'm kinda glad it is because it seemed to drag on forever, but... I do love these "leftovers" if you can call them that at all.
Don't they look festive and pretty? I simply had to take a picture of them, especially because the snow outside made for an amazing reflecting background, perfect for my amateur needs. Although I wouldn't mind an actual one and proper phtography equipment!

The thing is we don't get selection boxes (or in this case a huge 1kg tins full of yumminess) where I live but I spent last X-mas somewhere where they do. I got to try several different ones, Cadbury Heroes, Quality Street, Celebrations... and Cadbury Roses which are definitely my favourite. Why is that? Well, let me tell you I'm a big caramel enthusiast and these just have the most different caramel ones, besides the fact that it's Cadbury chocolate - come on, need I say more?! Don't get me wrong though, I'm not talking about the American version of Cadbury, oh no, that wouldn't even be half as good, I'm talking the original kind. Seriously, I've tried them both and the chocolate you can get in the States doesn't even measure up to the name Cadbury, if you ask me. But maybe that's just my spoilt European palate talking, products being adapted to the respective market's taste and all that.

Anyway, let me tell you more about the different flavours of the selection, according to preference: Golden Barrel (full of gooey caramel), Caramel Velvet, Hazel in Caramel, Hazel Whirl (no clue, what the whirl is all about, though), Tangy Orange Cream, Dairy Milk, Caramel (what a parody, it's actually fudge!) and Country Fudge, Strawberry Dream and finally Brazilian Darkness, just becauce it's boring plain dark chocolate.
Are you getting chocolate cravings yet, haha?
If you too think that these sound yummy, then you will understand why I had to make a secret stash to hide some of them from my boyfriend's family. I know, it does sound kinda bad and as if I'm not a great person for sharing (which is somewhat true, I hate to admit it... but I'm gonna quote Joey from Friends for this one: "Joey doesn't share food!) but come on, there were so many people and the chocolates tended to vanish way too quickly. Seriously, once a whole 1kg tin was gone in under an hour and I just couldn't stuff my face fast enough, so I stuffed my pockets instead. At least that way I could make sure there were some chocolates when I wanted them instead of having to scoff them down just because they were open at that point in time and if I didn't eat them then I wouldn't get any at all. Honestly, what would you have done?
I'm known to be a stash-maker anyway, so what do I care. It must be in my genetics, wanting to secure chocolate supply or something... To my defence it has to be said that my sister actually profits more from my stash than I do because by now I've accumulated more than I could possibly ever eat and she's like a chcolate mass destruction machine, bless her.
Will you excuse me now, I have to go and eat my last piece of leftover brownie...

17 Jan 2010

Peanut Butter Fudge Puddle Cookies

Posted by PastryPrincess at 02:43 0 comments Links to this post

The Brownies I wrote about were just cooling down outside, because the tray was too big to fit into the fridge, when I started making these very tasty cookies. I have to tell you that I'm a massive fan of cookies ( I pride myself on making mean choc-chip cookies with half a kilo of chocolate in them ) and I like them very chewy, but also crispy. The perfect cookie, I'm sure you know what I mean! Over the years I've perfected a Chocolate (chocolate chip) PB Cookie that is my sister's absolute favourite but I have to admit that these cookies are simply delectable and were very popular among my family and boyfriend. Even my mum liked them and she's usually not into PB at all - the secret is the fudge puddle, I'm telling you!


When I found the recipe on Vanilla Sugar's blog ( adapted from Sunday Baker's blog ) , I just knew I had to make them and boy, I'm gad I did: yumm! The ooey-gooey fudge centre makes these simple cookies special and they're whipped up in no time - I didn't even bother chilling them for the hole hour. For a while I considered boiling the sweetened condensed milk the way you would when you want to turn it into Dulce de Leche because I thought the fudge would be more caramel-y ... but then I remembered it would also thicken a good bit this way and so in the end I couldn't be bothered to boil it for longer than about half an hour, which didn't make a difference to it at all apart from heating it up. I still believe the fudge could be even better if it tasted more like caramel, the sweetened condensed milk as such doesn't really have much of a taste apart from sweet as it is anyway, but as I said I'm not quite sure what this would do to its texture. Maybe they would already taste more caramel-y if you stuck to the original recipe and used butterscotch chips but I can't get them where I live so I used milk and dark chocolate...
If you try them with caramel, let me know how it went!
Oh, these make for 20 cookies by the way and there was some fudge left over which I think could serve as a nice sauce for ice-cream if you heat it up and stir it well so no skin forms.


Brittle was my topping of choice this time, simply because I didn't have any peanuts left in the pantry.
If you think about it, salted peanuts would go very well with a more caramel-like fudge puddle, seeing as caramel with a pinch of salt was the big thing in 2009. "Big thing"... haha, isn't it funny that even in food there are things in fashion at a certain time and everybody's raving about them all of the sudden? What was your "big thing" in 2009, culinary or other and what do you think will be the latest craze this year?

Now French macaroons or "macarons" were one thing I was more than happy to see all over the place late last year, possibly because of the Daring Baker's challenge, but more about my obsession with macarons at another time. I meant to make some for the very first time before Christmas but then things got quite hectic and I didn't find the time ... They're high up on my to-do list though!

This is where you'll find the recipe and I recommend following the link to Sunday Baker's blog because I think her story is very touching, especially now that she's welcomed a new baby!

Cheesecake Brownies with Raspberry Cream

Posted by PastryPrincess at 01:44 0 comments Links to this post

I had some big baking catching-up to do today because it was my birthday last weekend and even though that usually means I make all my favourite goodies, this year I was sick and had to resort to yummy albeit store-bought cakes. From the best pâtisserie in town that is but I still felt a bit deprived - I didn't get to bake after all, so that's what I did today. As my family had planned to go out for dinner in the evening we needed something edible to tie us over in the mean time anyway, a perfect opportunity.

These are my 2 birthday cakes plus one separate piece of a different cake by the way, very rich.
But let's get back to those scrumptious brownies I wanted to tell you all about now.
I found the recipe for the brownies in a fabulous pastry book my boyfriend's sister got me for X-mas. It's called "The Hummingbird Bakery Cook Book" and is a collection of the most popular baked goods from this lovely looking bakery in London that is specialized in American pastries and seems to be popular with certain celebrities, too. I know for sure that this is the kinda place I could spend not only a fortune but also hours marvelling at the beautiful displays at and I will definitely put it on my to-do list for the next time I'm in London.



I chose this particular recipe because it combines 3 of my favourite flavours: brownie, cheesecake and raspberries and that way I didn't have to decide between 2 cakes and therefore it was perfect as a belated make-up birthday cake. The only changes I made was that I used 500 gr of cream cheese, simply because you can never have enough cheesecake if you ask me, and that I added lime zest and a bit of lemon juice and lemon extract, just because I personally prefer a more lemon-y cheesecake. To be honest I think you could just as well substitute all that icing sugar in the brownie batter for some regular or even brown sugar, I actually found the thought of using icing sugar a bit odd in the beginning but the brownie still turned out nicely and a bit chewy.
After just reading the recipe again I realized that I actually used 300 gr of frozen raspberries and a bit more icing sugar by "mistake" but I don't think this hurt one bit, quite the opposite. I mixed them in with the beaten cream when they were still frozen so that it became speckled pink, lovely and fruity but didn't overpower the brownie or the cheesecake. The stated baking time was too short for me but only because my oven is weird and never gets stuff done in time. On the bright side the cheesecake part came out so perfectly that I didn't have to let it set overnight and my family was grateful for being allowed to devour it after an hour of cooling time... =)

( Yes, that's snow all around! )

For the brownie
  • 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped and melted over a double-boiler
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 110g plain flour
For the cheesecake
  • 400g cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Eggs
For the cream topping
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 150g Raspberries, plus extra to decorate
33 x 23 x 5cms baking tray, lined with greaseproof paper

FOR THE BROWNIE

Beat sugar and butter together, add the eggs on at a time, mixing well between each one. Gradually beat in flour, then pour in molten chocolate and mix thoroughly. Pour into prepared baking tray and smooth with palette knife.


FOR THE CHEESECAKE

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together. Add one egg at a time, while still mixing. The mixture should be very smooth and creamy. Be careful not to overmix or the cheese will split. Spoon over top of brownie mixture and smooth over. Bake in preheated oven (170C/325F/Gas 3) for 30-40mins, or until the cheesecake is firm to the touch and light golden around the edges - it should still be pale in the centre. Leave to cool completely, then cover and refigerate for 2hrs, or preferably overnight.

FOR THE CREAM TOPPING

Mix cream, sugar and raspberries together - beat until firm but not stiff. Turn the brownie out onto a board and turn the right way up. Spread the topping evenly over the brownie and decorate with more raspberries.

You could really taste all 3 different layers but make sure you spread them out evenly. Usually I'm all for hardcore chocolatey fudgy brownie  but in this case it was a good thing the brownie had a more subtle flavour - which is probably why my dad liked it so much!


A New Beginning...

Posted by PastryPrincess at 00:41 0 comments Links to this post
Hi and welcome to my brand-new and first ever blog! I actually created this page about a month ago but couldn't muster the guts to start it properly and write my first post until now. I still find this whole bloging thing quite intimidating and don't really have a clue what I'm doing yet, so please bear with me...
To be honest I'm not even sure what made me decide to start a blog, all I know is that I am quite obsessed with a few other people's food blogs and kinda wanted to give it a shot myself.
So let me introduce myself, I'm a full-on, passionate-as-can-be foodie ( I love that word! ) and I'm interested in literally anything that somewhat has to do with food. 
( Well, hello my new found love that is food channels on Sky tv, I've just discovered you and if I had constant access to you I probably wouldn't leave the house much anymore...) 
But that's obviously not all, I'm also a keen traveller and therefore I will be posting about a few little trips of mine as well as all things food and life-related.

Many of the blogs I enjoy reading have amazing photography and creative original recipes and although I'm confident that I will get there too, as of now I mainly recreate other people's recipes and simply make them my own by changing them up. When can you truly call a recipe original anyway, can somebody tell me that?! Anyway,  I don't have professional photo equipment either and often feel like bad lighting is making my delicious food look a wee bit dull in pictures but as I often bake in the middle of the night ( I'll tell you the reason for that later) there's no daylight around, so what can you do. I'm also known to use my sister as a human cake stand to pose in front of a spot of white wall because of lack of proper background sometimes but I just think that makes it all the more fun! =)It's not too bad though, I'm discovering new and better ways to take pictures literally on a daily basis and I'm trying to build a little photo studio in order to decently present my little babies.
Now, there you have some info on what I'm working with, in case you were wondering, and proof that I'm a still great aul' amateur, hence the "imperfections".
That's me in action... not recently though.

Gosh, I feel like all I'm writing is gibbledy-gock and probably nobody will ever even find their way to this remote corner of blogosphere, let alone care to read about my shenanigans!
But truth be told, I'm at a MAJOR turning point in my life and feel as if this could be a good way to commemorate this exciting year ahead of me ... not that I want to jinx anything prematurely! Today I posted the most important application of my life so far, concerning something very close to my heart  - and yes, it's food-related, hooray! I will tell you more about that when the time is ripe and things are definite and official, as they will hopefully be very soon. So keep your fringers crossed, knock on wood and all that. Somehow this makes me think of Rachael Ray throwing salt over her shoulder every time she uses some, but I'm not that bad, seriously.
In addition to my application I baked 2 lovely treats today and went out for dinner (ostrich steak, hmm) to boot; how much more food could you get in one day and what a perfect time to start my blog I thought.

So, on this note, let's clink cookies and toast a new beginning and I hope to see you around sometime!

 

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