Blueberry Cardamom Scones

I love using herbs and spices in cooking. To me, it is the difference between a good dish and a great one. Likewise, it’s amazing how the same food is completely transformed by the addition of a single fleck or sprinkle from another part of the world.

Bluberry Cardamom Scones

These Blueberry Cardamom Scones are the perfect example of the almost magical power of spices. Most of us will recognize cardamom from our favourite Indian curry or chai tea latte but it is also used in some Nordic baked goods, Middle Eastern spiced tea, and is becoming increasingly popular in fusion cooking. Cardamom is extremely aromatic and has subtle hints of citrus so it pairs really well with anything sweet or savoury that might ordinarily use lemon. Although, it is expensive (much like saffron and vanilla) its intense fragrance means a little goes a long way.

I recently had the honour of talking to a local coffee shop about providing baked goods for their new venue. In my meeting with one of the owners, she specified that they wanted their food to mirror their unique personality; each offering needed to be  different to the usual cafe fare. Unfortunately, I was not able to find the kitchen style necessary for such a commitment but I was left with a surge of crazy ideas that I wanted to test out; one of which was this unusual twist on the classic coffee house scone.

Blueberry Cardamom Scones

1 cup fresh washed blueberries (I don’t recommend frozen as these tend to bleed purple all over the dough)

2 cups of self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup butter

1 egg

1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/4 cup milk)

1/3 cup sugar (plus extra for dusting)

1/2 tsp cardamom

Zest from 1/2 lemon

(Note: my experienced baker friends might be confused as to why there is no salt in the recipe but the addition of cardamom makes this step unnecessary.)

Blueberry Cardamom Scones

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix flour, cardamom, sugar together. Rub butter into flour mix until it looks like breadcrumbs. In a separate bowl, whisk together lemon zest, eggs and milk. Add whole blueberries into wet mix. Make a well in the center of the dry mix, and add the egg mixture. Gradually combine all the ingredients with your hand until a dough is formed. (If it seems too dry, add a couple of drops of milk.) Turn out the dough onto a flat surface lightly dusted with flour, and gently form into a flat ball. This is the tricky part. You will need to roll out the dough into a circle about 3/4 inch thick without bursting the berries otherwise the whole thing will turn purple! Slice the dough across (like a pizza) to get 8 triangles. It is important to press and cut straight down with your knife (instead of sliding back and forth) or the scones will not rise during baking. Brush each scone with milk and sprinkle sugar liberally over the tops. Bake for 15-16 minutes until they are golden. Allow to cool completely before serving as the blueberries are full of boiling hot juice.

Blueberry Cardamom Scones

I loved the addition of cardamom and felt that it really elevated these scones from something simple to something spectacular.

Tips on Purchasing a Stand Mixer

Purchasing a stand mixer

Earlier this summer, something I have been hoping to happen for a long time finally became a reality. I got a Kitchen Aid stand mixer! For the past 6 years I have been making all my cakes (including wedding cakes!) with my little $15 Black & Decker hand mixer and a variety of large bowls!

Old Faithful

Although this mixer served me well, when it came to large orders, I would inevitable suffer upper arm and neck cramps for several days, and almost always find a spot of frosting splattered up under cabinets or off in the far corners of the kitchen even after extensive cleaning!

Choosing a stand mixer was actually a lot more stressful than I was expecting mostly because I approached this like a lifetime purchase. It has taken me a long time to be able to save up/afford/justify spending the money on a stand mixer and I didn’t want to buy the ‘wrong’ one. So,  I did a lot of research and thought it might be helpful to share what I have discovered for those of you thinking of making such a purchase. Here are the main things you need to decide before you begin:

What do I need it for? yes I know mixing, but mixing what? cakes/cupcakes, cookies, bread, mashed veg? everything? And how much do you want to mix at a time? 1 loaf of bread, 5 batches of cookies, batter for 20 inch cakes? It really makes a difference for the kind of machine you need to focus on. 

How much am I willing/able to spend? yes we would all like to buy the most super-duper machine like the ones in industrial bakeries but how much can you realistically spend for the size of your kitchen in relation to your needs.

On what am I willing to compromise? Just like anything, there is no perfect machine out there so decide what your absolutes are and what you are willing to live without. Have realistic expectations. If you are wishing to start a bread making company, there may not realistically be a home kitchen style mixer that exists to meet your needs.

thinking

These seem like obvious questions but there is so much information out there on mixers that it’s important to be firm on your answers before you begin the process. It can be quite confusing if you don’t have some safe fixed perimeters

Brand names: There are other mixers not just Kitchen Aid and some of them even have slightly cooler features but if you know WHAT you need it for, then you can eliminate some of these options right off the bat. I found some really helpful Youtube video reviews were people did a side by side comparison with kitchen aids and other brands.  This also shed light on some of the  lofty product descriptions that don’t seem to really live up to their promises. Again, those answers will help you get to the right conclusion about which brand- i.e. if your budget is more limited and you just want a mixer for the occasional box cake packet, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t consider a less expensive smaller machine as long as it is good quality.

Which size: There is not a great deal of size variety of other brands so this section really only applies to those who are trying to chose a Kitchen Aid. (Cuisinart have two sizes – big and super large!- so some of this might apply but it’s a much easier choice than the Kitchen Aid machines). So how do you pick between the Classic, Artisan and the  Pro? There are some great YouTube videos and online reviews that helped me figure out which would best suit my needs. (I just searched for Kitchen Aid Mixer comparisons.) For me it came down to the Artisan and the Pro. Again, this goes back to the original questions I had established before researching. For the most part my little hand mixer has been fine for a small mix but what I needed most from a new mixer was the ability to knock out an order of 175 cupcakes for a wedding, or a large batch of royal icing or buttercream. Here are the major features outlined for each kitchen aid mixer size according to what I found:

Classic: Smallest bowl (4.5 qt), no handle on the bowl and doesn’t come with a pouring shield. However, it’s the cheapest at around $230-250 and again if you are only looking for basic mixing capability for single batch recipes, this is a great option. (I actually borrowed my friends Classic for making a large amount of royal icing a few months ago and was really happy with the results- it just wasn’t big enough for my ongoing needs)

Artsian: 5 qt bowl with handle and a pouring shield. Comes in a larger range of colours but is around $100 more than the classic. This seems to be the best kitchen aid deal between the two extremes of the Classic and the Pro. As it’s the most popular, many companies offer special deals at certain times of year.

Pro: 6 qt bowl with much more powerful motor. As a result it does not have a tilting head but a crank shaft handle to lift and lower the bowl itself. This also means it is quite a bit taller than the other two machines and does not fit under all kitchen cabinets. However, if you are into making several bathes of a recipe at one time, or larger tiered cakes, this does seems to be the most ideal machine. The colour options are constantly getting better but can drastically change the price so depending on which one you chose, there may not be as big of a difference with the Artisan. There is a lot of discussion however about how the flat beater doesn’t really scrape the bowl well. There is an additional flat beater you can purchase with little ‘wings’ that seems to solve this problem but it is extra and the reviews were very mixed.

ColoursColour: one of the key appeals for the kitchen aid mixers is the variety of colours and decorative options. Of course, which colour to purchase is entirely up to taste etc but I do have some words of advice- 1: Make sure you see a real life sample of the colour because they don’t all look exactly as they appear on-line. 2: The less obscure, the cheaper. My white pro was $50 cheaper than even the chrome and $100 less than some of the really snazzy ones. (Again this is where those key questions I mentioned at the beginning will be a great help.) 3: If money is an issue, think longevity- yes bright purpley-orange is lovely right now but will you love it for the next 10-15 years, and will it look good in another kitchen if you move?

Refurbished or New?: Refurbished Kitchen Aids are available everywhere and are typically a much cheaper option (up to $100 less) than a new one (although sometimes, you can catch a really good sale that can dramatically reduce the difference). There are a lot of mixed experiences and reviews of refurbished machines so it’s hard to say if this is a better option. Many people seem to have had great success with their’s whereas others have received a machine that is practically broken or unusable. Here is my one piece of advice on choosing to go the refurbished route- go with a reputable seller so if there are any problems you can get a refund easily. It seems that almost unanimously when people followed this guideline, even if their machine was no good, they raved about the customer service. How do you pick a reputable seller?-read lots of reviews!

MoneyWhere to Purchase? This will largely depend on the size, brand etc, there are so many options. Target, Bed Bath & Beyond seem to offer sales, coupons and rebates on Kitchen Aids at certain times of the year but nothing too amazing. (but still a sale is a sale!) Also, these offers tend to be tied mainly to the classic and the artisan. I couldn’t not find anything better than Amazon’s prices for the Pro, plus the seller offered a rebate for a free pasta roller and cutter at that particular time of year. However, with on-line offers, be sure to read exactly what the machine comes with and be careful to notice if the machine is new or refurbished. Sometimes, a particular colour does not come with a specific attachment or pouring shield. Bottom line- it’s not going to be cheap so do a little research but don’t expect to find massive differences between sellers especially with the higher end machines. If you are looking to get this as cheap as possible, be open about the colour- it is the one aspect that makes the biggest difference in price that I could see.

Bread: it seems that almost all the negative reviews I read for every machine was connected to their inability to mix bread either well or without burning out the motor. If you are looking for a machine to make multiple batches of bread, you may have to accept that without an industrial strength machine, this might not be possible. The occasional loaf seems to be fine as long as it’s kept at a lower speed and you are willing to be patient with stopping to scrape the bottom of the bowl.

Take Time and Plan Ahead. I first decided I wanted a mixer over a year ago and was finally willing to take the plunge. I excitedly searched kitchen aid mixer in my browser expecting to click ‘purchase’ within an hour. I was wrong! Like I said, there are so many machines to chose from you need to allow time to research properly and look for the best option and deal. I don’t recommend deciding on a whim or taking on a specific project with the view to have your machine beforehand unless there is plenty of time ahead. I abandoned my first attempts because we found out we were moving to Texas and needed all the extra cash we could find but I began again in April. It took me about a month of casually browsing, researching and window shopping before finally making a purchase and I could not be happier about my machine. It was completely the right one for me and my baking life has become so much easier (and cleaner!).  I mean… just look at how lovely it is sitting there all pretty on my kitchen counter!

My Beautiful Mixer

Good luck and please feel free to ask me any questions or share your stand mixer love below!

An Afternoon Tea Party with English Scones

What better way to celebrate the upcoming arrival of your friend’s baby girl than to throw an afternoon tea party shower. Pretty flowers, little cups and saucers, small sandwiches and scones, great friends sitting around the table together laughing, and sharing in the wonder of new life. Some friends and I had the pleasure of arranging this intimate little gathering full of tiny pink frilly outfits and baby bows with bling. It was such great fun.

tea party

I absolutely love the collaborative efforts that go into this wonderful American tradition of helping to provide and prepare for a baby’s arrival. I am especially honoured to be surrounded by friends who go to such great lengths to take care of each other. This shower was just another example of how blessed John and I are to be here at Baylor.

Our tea party consisted of delicious fruit salad, classic cucumber sandwiches with the edges cut off

Cucumber Sandwiches

and English tea scones.

scones above

served with jam and lemon curd of course!

scones above with jam

(sadly I could not find any clotted cream but I have since found a recipe for homemade clotted cream that I will be trying very soon). This tea party made me rather homesick and triggered hours of nostalgically seeking out recipes for all the other British classic desserts like cherry bakewell tarts, hot cross buns, fondant fancies, and Eccles cakes. I am sure some of these will be turning up on The Grumbling Belly in the coming weeks and months!

English scones are not like the American ones you find at coffee shops. They lean slightly towards breakfast biscuits with some added sweetness.  Typically, scones are either plain or with raisins/currants. The ones I made for this shower are sort of an American-British marriage as I added dried cranberries with the raisins as well as a few other small modifications! If you want to make a classic recipe just omit the cranberries, zest and vanilla.

Tea Scones

English tea scones

1/2 cup of raisins

1/2 cup of dried cranberries

1 tsp orange zest

2 tbsp of sugar

4 cups of self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)

2 eggs

dash of vanilla extract (optional)

1/2 cup of milk (plus a little extra for brushing)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Sift flower, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Cut butter into cubes and the rub into the flour mix until you have a breadcrumb texture. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, then add orange zest, vanilla if using, raisins and cranberries. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the milk-egg mix. Gently work the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated into a dough consistency. Roll out onto a floured surface and cut out scones circles. It is really important when cutting into the dough that you do not move the cutter around as this will prevent the scones from rising. Simply press straight down and release. Brush the top of the scones with milk and place on baking sheet with a little space between them. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown. You can freeze the scones as soon as they are cool in a ziplock bag to preserve their freshness. Or, serve them as soon as possible with jam, clotted cream or lemon curd.

scones close

(Thanks to Hannah King and Mike Trozzo for taking beautiful pictures)

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Bellini French Macaroons and Lemon-Berry Cake Balls

Bellini French Macaroons and Lemon-Berry Cake Balls

One of my absolute favourite things about our life in Waco is our great community. I don’t know how other PhD couples survive without a strong network of support from fellow students and spouses. It is such a unique experience and both John and I have been comforted and encouraged many times by the knowledge that we are not alone. The words “us too” have brought me so much relief when we are in the thick of the semester, exhausted, missing people far away, worried, and trying to remember why we are here!

Every year, all the families in John’s New Testament program do a fantastic job of welcoming the first years who begin arriving in June/July. This past week, just days after moving to Waco, we threw a surprise party for one of the new students at the request of her husband. He planned and commissioned the whole thing from miles away with people whom he had never met and we were all so excited to take part. I was particularly pleased to be asked to make the desserts and we collaborated on a menu of Bellini french macaroons and lemon-berry cake balls.

I have been wanting to learn how to make these for some time now so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Recently, I published my top tips for any baking project and I can say hand on my heart, these tips truly made a huge difference to the success of this most recent venture. I researched, planned, prepped and practiced- several times- and I was ecstatic with the results.

French macaroons are apparently quite tricky (something I did not know beforehand!) and after a LOT of reading, and a LOT of less than adequate trial runs, I think I can say with confidence that there is no one perfect recipe to follow. This doesn’t mean none of the recipes are great, on the contrary the ingredient lists are all spot on. What I mean to say is that the key with making macaroons is learning the method and mastering this perfect balance in your particular kitchen and climate. Fortunately, there are numerous helpful bloggers out there offering expert advice and it’s just a matter of trying different strategies from different people when things don’t go according to plan. After thorough research, the fastest way to learn how to make perfect macaroons is through trial and error.

Bellini French Macaroons

Bellini French Macaroons

You can find the recipe I adapted  here from Brave Tart. I halved the mixture so I could make smaller batches with more controlled results when testing. The other main difference is that for the flavour I added a 1 tsp mix of peach jam and juice. (The jam is too think to incorporate well into the batter but juice adds too much moisture and not enough flavour so I decided to just mix the two).  You can also add a drop of peach food colouring- seeing as I was making several batches, and wasn’t confident about matching the colour perfectly for each batch, I chose to create an ombre colour scheme instead.

Top Tips:

  • Use almond flour instead of grinding your own almonds
  • Weigh all your ingredients for accuracy
  • Learn to mix your batter to the correct consistency- read read read and watch the experts to know what to look for
  • If you live in a humid climate, age your egg whites at least overnight and once you have piped your macaroon shells onto the baking sheet, allow to dry and harden well. This will give you the signature ‘feet’ (little bubbles along the bottom) and your shells will not crack or hollow.
  • Fill Macaroons and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.
  • Google specific questions when things don’t go well. i.e. ‘why are my french macaroons cracking?’ There is so much info out there, it is helpful to narrow the search when trouble shooting so you don’t have to weed through pages of general advice.

These are just some of the helpful websites I used to master the french macaroon process.

Bellini Buttercream Filling

  • 1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp of salt)
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup champagne (I suggest using a good one with a stronger flavour)
  • 1/2 cup peach jam (preferably one that is not watery)

Place all above ingredients into bowl and mix thoroughly until smooth. If the mixture is a little too runny, put it in the fridge for about an hour before piping onto macaroon shells or add a bit more powdered sugar. One your shells are filled, store in the fridge overnight. This will help the filling set and your macaroons will have a better texture.

Lemon Berry Cake Balls

Lemon-Berry Cake Balls

The cake balls were a lot less complicated but I recommend learning from the cake-ball/pop master Bakerella for the best instructions. You can use any yellow cake for this recipe (store bought or homemade) so I chose Victoria Sandwich Cake like the one I made here for my casserole cake last year with the addition of 1 tsp of lemon zest. I love this cake’s rich buttery flavour and think it helps balance the sweetness of the chocolate coating and the frosting.

Lemon-Berry Buttercream

Obviously you can use store bought frosting and add the flavourings below but I really dislike the texture and the mouth feel so I usually make my own buttercream.

  • 1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp of salt)
  • 3-4 cups  powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup berry jam (I used raspberry and blackberry)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon curd

Mix all ingredients together until smooth. You will probably not need to add all of this buttercream to the cake crumbs. Refer to Bakerella’s instructions and quantities.

S’more Truffles

Smore Truffles

Ahhh S’mores. The quintessential American summer campfire dessert. The first time I ever heard of a S’more was when I moved here in 2003. My friend just casually mentioned making them as part of a camping trip and I guess my blank expression prompted her to ask if we had them in England. There was so much shock and horror in her eyes as she tried to imagine a childhood without S’mores. Needless to say, she soon arranged the whole experience for me as if to undo a great injustice.  She pulled out a graham cracker, added a slab of Hershey’s chocolate, toasted a marshmallow and pressed it onto the chocolate with another cracker on top creating a little cookie sandwich. There were not many American food items that I had not heard of either from friends or American media so I too was surprised that these little squishy-oozey-delights had not made their way across the pond.

Of course once I thought about it, large toasting-style marshmallows were not available in England in the 80’s. Plus, the UK is not thought of as a summer camping haven because of the terrible weather. Yes, we may go camping but it’s usually in a water protected camping vehicle or a warm and cozy chalet because you just never know if the sun is going to be out even in the middle of July or August. As a result, there is not really a market for extensive camping cuisine like there is here in the States. (heated Heinz Baked Beans from a tin does not count!). This doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy other outdoor cooking like barbecues as soon as there is even a hint of summer (not the american kind of barbecue -barbecue is just the generic English word for grilling out) but we mostly stick to kebabs, burgers and hot dogs. Greeks in London, don’t even wait for the sunshine, if we have a barbecue planned, rain is not a deterrent. Some poor male creature is assigned to build a makeshift ‘gazebo’ out of whatever can be found and stand out there grilling meat even if it means the aid of an umbrella!

So what did I think of my first S’more? It was messy and gooey and sticky and warm and crunchy and just delightful. I am not a purist though because I actually really dislike Hershey’s (sorry!) so I prefer my S’more with a less sugary chocolate but otherwise, good call America! In celebration of Independence Day, I decided to turn these delicious treats into truffles to take to a friend’s fish fry yesterday. It took me a couple of tries to really get these right but they were a huge hit. The challenge with trying to add marshmallows to anything is that they don’t have an actual unique flavour- they are just sugar. What finally made this recipe click for me was capturing the fluffy chewy texture as well as the toasted sweetness, and I think I got there in the end. But hey, make a batch my American friends and let me know what you think.

S’more Truffles

(makes a lot of truffles but the exact number depends on the size you chose to make them)

12oz good quality milk chocolate chips

12oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like using both kinds of chocolate to balance out the sweetness)

1 large bag of mini marshmallows (I don’t recommend using a store brand- go for the good stuff, you will really taste the difference)

1/3 cup of heavy cream

1 tbsp butter

1 cup of graham cracker crumbs

1/2 -3/4 cup of marshmallow vodka (optional)

Place chocolate chips, cream and butter into microwave safe bowl and heat at 50% power for 1 minute. Stir and heat for 30 seconds more at 50%. Stir again and heat for another 30 seconds if needed until half the chips are melted. It’s really important to stop heating BEFORE all the chips melt otherwise you will burn the chocolate. If you stir well, the remaining chips will melt away nicely without becoming grainy. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in vodka if using- add as much as you like but it is very sweet so be careful not to make the mixture too sickly. Line a baking sheet with foil and cover with non-stick spray. (I learnt the hard way by not using the non-stick spray when I did this the first time.The marshmallows will stick to everything if you don’t spray!) Spread marshmallows over baking sheet in a single layer so they toast evenly (you will have to toast the marshmallow in two batches to fit them all). Place under the broiler and watch until they become nice and golden brown. Take them out and allow them to cool for about 20 seconds and then spoon them into the melted chocolate. Finish toasting the remaining marshmallows and add them to the chocolate as well. Do not stir until all the marshmallows are in the bowl as this is key to capturing the flavour and texture of the truffles. Once they are all in the bowl, fold them in just enough to be incorporated but not too much so they completely dissolve. You should still be able to see lots of white flecks and strings of marshmallow throughout the mixture. Cover the surface of the chocolate with plastic wrap and place in fridge for about 3-4 hours. Put graham cracker crumbs into a small bowl. Scoop out a spoonful of chocolate mixture and roll it in the palms of your hands to form a ball. Drop ball into crumbs and roll around to get a nice cracker coating. Place the truffles back into the fridge in an airtight container until ready to serve.

S'more Truffles

How to Succeed at Baking Projects

Top tips to confidently tackle any baking project

Recently I had the pleasure of designing a cupcake tower for the wedding of a sweet young couple here in Waco. We looked over some ideas that the bride had highlighted and I gathered other pertinent information like wedding invites, colours etc until we came up with the perfect design.

Cupcake Tower

Despite remaining calm and cool, I have to admit I was a little nervous at first simply because up until that point, I hadn’t actually experimented much with cupcakes let alone made 175 cupcakes at one time. However, I am always surprised how my confidence suddenly kicks in when it comes to being in the kitchen. I am not an overly confident person at other times, and in fact, there were things I did not attempt in life because I let my fears or worries overshadow those moments of adventure. But, when I am faced with anything in my kitchen, I believe in myself wholeheartedly. (This doesn’t mean I haven’t made any mistakes- I have had some major disasters!- but I learnt to think quickly on my feet to correct or try again.) When I first started taking risks that paid off in the kitchen, I  found that this confidence began to trickle into other areas of my life. I started to see that I can accomplish things that seemed really daunting at first and the same skill set I used in the kitchen was still with me when faced with other projects.

Although some intuition is involved, this success is not completely by chance and so today I want to share the tips I have developed from tackling projects like my recent wedding cupcake tower. I believe these tips are applicable to any new baking venture, big or small.

Practice and research in advance. I had never really tried my hand at cupcakes before this order. Yes, I had made them and they were good but I knew they could be better so I researched recipes until I knew what would work best and then tried a few different things before finding the perfect cupcake. I did this a week before my tasting with the bride and groom so I had time to keep working if it wasn’t up to par. My first crucial piece of advice is to research and test first! It is also imperative that you test out the recipe in your particular kitchen, with your appliances and your oven. For example, I preferred hand mixing several parts of the batter and adjusted cooking temperatures a couple of times until I was really happy. This isn’t just true of making a wedding cake order but of any new baking venture- I don’t recommend presenting your first try on unsuspecting friends unless you are experienced with the process involved. It’s not like cooking where you can add or easily recreate at the last minute. For the sake of being completely vulnerable, I do not follow this advice all the time but I have certainly been more successful when I spend time at least researching even if I can’t actually practice.

Blue flower cupcakes

Organize your research: Although there are so many wonderful people out there sharing advice and tips, you need a place to keep all this info for the right time. I have a secret board on Pinterest where I pin my on-line research such as great tutorials, tips etc so I can refer back to them during the project. (I keep the board secret in case I am planning a surprise for a friend.) Because of all the variables that can throw you off during practice, (or on the day) it’s so helpful to have those websites on hand  to refer to them in a flash.  Create a system that works best for you.

Plan supplies and ingredients ahead of time. This may sound obvious but taking time to think through every aspect of the project is crucial. Sometimes you might need a particular item that is only available on line and needs to be shipped. Practicing helps to think through all the logistics and ingredients needed. If you are making something for an event you will also need to consider how to store, transport and display your baked goods. Don’t leave anything to the last minute! It’s the worst feeling of panic when you realize you forgot something crucial or worse, you have run out of time.

Plan time going backwards. It is imperative that you plan your time meticulously so that everything is completed and you can remain calm. The best advice is starting backwards. Let’s say for example your baked items need to be ready for 5pm, you should plan your time beginning at 5pm i.e.

cupcake planning

You will note how I calculate the time needed for each step and also allow time for any mishaps or issues at each point where possible. I used to have a terrible habit of calculating time in my head and finding I was completely off in practice so after several panic moments, I learnt to use this method and it has been extremely helpful.

Stay calm, don’t give up, and always have extra. I can’t stress enough how helpful it has been to follow this step. You never know what might happen in the baking process so make sure you have some ingredients to start over if needed. In some cases it’s also best to just make an extra batch. When you have extra on hand, not only do you get to bestow leftovers upon other loved ones, you have a back up plan in case disaster strikes. On one order recently, I had everything ready to go and at the last minute, I dropped a whole box of cupcakes upside down. Although the box was closed and none hit the floor, when I opened the box, they were one messed up clump of cake and frosting! Fortunately, my husband was with me and reading the look of horror on my face, helped me remain calm and think through my options. I had an extra batch set aside and extra frosting in the fridge so all I had to do was prepare another box and off the order went with no further drama. 

I hope you find these tips helpful and it provides you with some motivation to tackle a new baking venture with increased confidence. After all….you could end up creating something you’re mighty darned proud of!

ready for eating

White Chocolate Mojito Truffles

Picture1

We all love a good Oreo style truffle – so easy to make and a guaranteed crowd pleaser but every now and then it’s important to remember the beauty of a real french style chocolate truffle. Decadent, elegant and the perfect gifts for any chocolate lover (if you can bear to part with them). Somehow, I had build them up in my mind to be this intimidating complicated process that absolutely required you to either have a culinary degree or French ancestry. Fortunately, I was very much mistaken and not only are they easy but once you learn the process, you can pretty much make ANY style truffle your imagination can muster. Which is how this recipe was born.

Recently some fun friends of ours threw a Black and White themed party to celebrate the completion of some pretty important exams. We were asked to wear black or white and, if we wanted, to bring black or white snacks to share. Once I heard that they had invited an amazing mixologists to make exciting unique cocktails at the party, I knew I had to make a white chocolate french style truffle with alcohol! Mojitos are my favourite cocktails and it’s pretty much guaranteed that if a restaurant/bar menu has some kind of mojito concoction, I am going to try it! (I also make a mean blackberry Mojito- even a virgin version – which I will share with you all soon). Therefore, it seemed only natural to make White Chocolate Mojito Truffles. They were a huge hit and I can’t wait to turn other favourite drinks into delicious truffles.

White Chocolate Mojito Truffles:

White Chocolate Mojito Truffles

24 oz good quality white chocolate chips

3/4 stick of butter (chopped into little small cubes)

9 tbsp of heavy cream

pinch salt

1/4 cup of rum (you can add less or more depending on your preference! If you want to remove the alcohol altogether, use 10 oz of chips and 1 tsp of imitation rum flavour)

zest from 2 limes

2 tbsp of lime juice

1 tsp mint extract

Place chocolate, cream and butter into microwave safe bowl and heat on 30 second intervals at 50% power until the chocolate is almost melted. White chocolate can burn very easily and turn grainy so it’s better to stop heating before it all melts. Once you remove it from the microwave, just keep stirring and the last few chips will melt away and it will become a smooth texture. Add the zest, extracts and juice a little at a time and mix thoroughly. Finally, add the rum and stir well. Cover in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 2 hours. The chocolate will be firm but malleable. Scoop out truffle mix with a melon baller and shape into perfect balls in the palm of your hands. (If your hands start to get too warm and begin melting the chocolate, run them under cold water and dry thoroughly before resuming.) Dust the balls in clear sugar crystals. They will need another couple of hours in the fridge to harden completely. White chocolate truffles are typically softer than regular chocolate ones so it’s best to keep them in the fridge until ready to serve.  This recipe makes a lot of truffles but the number depends on their size.

White Chocolate Mojito Truffles