Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bon Appetit Desserts: Blueberry Coffee Cake

Wow! It has been a while since I have had any free time, so I thought I would christen this time with a new Bon Appetit recipe. This is a 'one whisk' recipe, it truly is quite easy. If you can tackle the Kugelhopf, then this will be a piece of cake! Enjoy!

Blueberry Coffee Cake

12 servings

2-1/2       cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided

3/4          cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

1             cup sweetened flaked coconut

1/2          cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1             teaspoon ground cinnamon

2-1/2       teaspoons baking powder

1/2          teaspoon salt

1             cup sugar

2             large eggs

1             cup milk

1             12-ounce package frozen blueberries, unthawed, or 2-1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Combine 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, coconut, brown sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl. Mix until moist and crumbly. Set topping aside.

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Butter and flour 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Sift remaining 2 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt into small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat remaining 1/2 cup butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix dry ingredients into batter alternately with milk in 3 additions each. Fold in blueberries.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter. Bake cake until tester inserted into center come out clean and topping is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool cake slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

That's all she wrote, folks!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

London Time

I am in the beginning of my second week of Christmas break and I have recently returned from London. It is raining outside, it's quiet, and I have nothing to do, except read (Hooray!!), so, I thought that I would share a bit from my time in London.

My mom and I flew out on 20th December and landed in London on 21st December. The first day seemed long and filled with amazing things and then it was time to go home. Why do vacations pass so quickly?!

We purchased our plane tickets eight months ago, so I had plenty of time to make lists and lists of things that we wanted to see and do. We also purchased tickets for things like afternoon tea, tours, and musical delights!

Our flight was delayed for some reason and then once we were all boarded, we were delayed for about an hour, because a passenger decided that they did not want to fly after all and all of the luggage on the plane had to be taken off so that their 9 bags could be removed. Then everything was re-loaded and we were on our way. I've never heard of someone changing their mind to fly once they are already on the plane! The removal of the luggage was a security issue, so I was totally ok with it. Right after we landed, my mom and I set out on foot, in the dark of the evening, to see what we could find. It just so happens that we stumbled upon the London Eye and the winter market that they hold there, on the Southbank.

Monday- Our first full day: We took a tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. I was extremely excited for this tour, especially the bit in Bath. I am a self proclaimed Jane Austen fan and I was in such a state to be where she once stood and also see sites that she has mentioned in her books 'Persuasion' and 'Northanger Abbey'. So, I was quite disappointed when we barely got to spend and hour here. I was able to see Bath Abbey, but my mom and I had to run through the Roman Baths. I just have to get back there some day and spend a proper amount of time weaving through the streets and seeing all that there is to see... Jane Austen's house for one!

The guards marching up the hill to the castle, for the changing of the guard. They came drumming and fife-ing along.

A street in Bath.

Tuesday- Day two: We were supposed to take a trip to Oxford. I couldn't believe that I was going to be able to eat at the same pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkein used to hang out. However, at the last minute, my mom decided that it would be too expensive to travel there, so we walked around London and did a little sight seeing and shopping.

Did I mention that we went to the Twinings tea shop? Established in 1706... still family owned!

The Embankment along the Thames, going toward the Houses of Parliament

Wednesday- Day three- Christmas Eve: We spent our time walking around Piccadilly Circus and we also visited Fortnum and Mason. This is an amazing place. I had researched it ahead of time and I knew that I wanted to buy some tea and a teapot from them. It turns out that they have been the grocer to the Royal family for hundreds of years! If you ever make it to London I really suggest a visit to this location. It has beautiful window displays, especially at Christmas and there are many floors to explore. Although, it can get busy, it is nowhere near at crazy as Harrods! Don't even bother with Harrods, it's a diaster. You can barely move in there. After doing some shopping, we went to the Piccadilly Theatre and saw 'Jersey Boys'. It was pretty good!

We then headed directly to Royal Albert Hall, for my most favorite part of our entire trip. We attended the last performance of the season, of  'Carols by Candlelight'. The orchestra was dressed in Regency clothing, wigs and all! There was Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethoven, etc. and everyone in attendance sang carols in between pieces that the orchestra played and songs that the choir sang. It was great! What a lovely venue as well. It was a magical night!

Royal Albert Hall

Inside Royal Albert Hall

Thursday- Day four- Christmas Day: We did an all day walking tour of London. We saw many things that we had already discovered on our own, but we were also taken down many side streets and alleys that we never would have found on our own. I wish that more historical information was given throughout the day, but we did have a pretty substantial amount given to us. However, it did seem that many things were glossed over and hardly any time was spent on picture taking. My mom and I met a lot of great people that were in our group and it was an enjoyable experience. If you don't want to put on any weight during the holiday season, may I suggest a 14 mile walking tour??!

A great thing about this tour, is that we started at 6 am and London was practically deserted. So, we had the very great opportunity to take some photos with no one in them!

The Royal Courts of Justice
This reminded me of 'Bridget Jones' Diary'... He's a top barrister!

Friday- Day five- Boxing Day: We went to afternoon tea at the Berkeley. What a hotel! I am pretty sure that I would never be able to afford to stay at this hotel. The tea was 49 pounds per person! I keep telling myself, that the price was well worth the experience that we had. We had the Berkeley Blend tea and the tier of sweets were based off of winter's fashion moguls and their new fashion pieces. It was pretty fun. Our server was great and we had a very nice gal chat us up about our Christmas and she also offered to take our photo. My mom was having a hard time feeling like she should be in such an expensive setting, but I told her that we all paid to be there and we deserve to be there just as much as the next person. I enjoyed our time there!

Inside the Berkeley


Aren't the sweets fun?!

Saturday- Day six: We headed home. Our flight was delayed because there was a problem with one of the pilots and they had to call in a replacement. He had to come from Essex, so our delay time was about an hour and a half. Luckily, they boarded us quickly after he arrived and we were safely on our way. We had a pretty smooth flight and although I miss London, I am happy to be home.

I would love to visit England again and spend more time in Bath, make my way to the Costwolds and Oxford, and also spend a bit of time in Lyme. I hear that the countryside is lovely. I just had a fabulous experience. I highly recommend a trip to London!

I had to bring some tea items home, of course!!
I forgot to mention that I went to the Dickens House Museum. It is in one of Charles Dickens; old homes! It was really neat.

If you are interested in any of the things that I mentioned, you may go to my London, Oxford, Bath board on pinterest! Anything that I found interesting, I posted to this board. 

I hope that you will stick around, because I hope to do a recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding soon! I ate some in England and I just had to have it again!

Happy new year! 2015 already! How did that happen?!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Cookies: Peppermint Sugar Cookies

I hold a cookie exchange at my mom's house every year. I think that this year marked the fifth year that I have organized this little event. I enjoy it extremely, because sometimes it proves to be the only time in the year that I get to see certain people. There is food, conversation, and cookies!

This year, we had a small turn out, but I think fun was still had.

Here are the rules for my cookie exchange:

1. Cookies only! (no bars, rolls, brownies, etc.)
2. Bake 3 dozen.
3. Make them festive.
5. Send me the recipe or print out copies yourself.
4. Come hungry.


The rules are simple... but there are a few guests that never get it right. Ha ha. They end up bringing two types of cookies, or doughnuts. I was actually happy about the doughnuts, though. Super good! A cookie exchange is a great way to celebrate the season with those that we love. I hope that you get to attend one this year.

I decided to try a new recipe this year, that had two parts. One part was the dough and the other part was the icing. I have always wanted to try out royal icing, but felt a bit intimidated by it and put it off. This year, I decided, 'why not?!' I had some issues, but worked them out in time to have 3 dozen decent looking cookies. I learned that your barrier of icing should be dry before you flood the center with icing. What I like about the royal icing, is that you can dye it any old color that you would like and once you get a steady hand, it seems pretty easy to get cookies that will catch the eye. I suggest that you use gel color, instead of liquid. You do not want to thin out your icing until the 'flood' stage. Life is about taking chances, so if you are a little iffy about the royal icing, like I was... JUST DO IT!

The finished product.

I suggest you make a few extra cookies that you can practice on... unless you also want to channel your inner Salvador Dali, like I did.

Peppermint Sugar Cookies


3          cups unbleached, all purpose flour
2          teaspoon baking powder
1          cup (2 sticks) salted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1          cup sugar
1          egg
3/4       teaspoon pure vanilla
1/2       teaspoon almond extract
1.5 inch round cutter (I used a much bigger cookie cutter)


1/2       cup meringue powder
1          scant cup (almost full) water
2          pounds (32 ounces, or 2 boxes) confectioners sugar
2          teaspoons light corn syrup
1          teaspoon peppermint extract (if desired)
Pink, red or green gel icing color
Small squeeze bottles

Instruction for Cookies

Preheat oven to 350ºF and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and extracts until combined. Add the flour mixture one cup at a time, mixing on low until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. After the last addition, the dough will look thick and crumbly.

Now, you're ready to roll. Line rolling surface with wax paper. Dust surface and coat your rolling pin with four. Roll a portion of the dough on the flour-coated surface and knead it together until smooth. Roll dough 1/4-inch thick. Dip the round cookie cutter in flour and cut as many circles out of the dough as you can. Remove scrap, re-knead and repeat. Make sure to re-flour the work surface as you go.

Place cookies on prepared cookie sheet. (You can easily lift them, as the dough is sturdy.) You can also roll directly on to parchment paper, remove scraps and transfer the parchment paper to the cookie sheet.

Place cookies in freezer for about 10 minutes. Then bake for 9-12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking tray. Use the cookie cutter to trim cookies to size, if desired. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Instructions for Icing

Mix royal icing in large bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment. Mix together meringue powder, peppermint extract (optional), and water until foamy and combined.

Sift in the confectioners sugar, add the corn syrup and mix on low until incorporated.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 5 minutes on medium-low, Increase to medium-high and continue beating until icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. Tint a small portion the the royal icing pink. If you like, add a few drops of white gel color to the remaining white icing.

With a squeeze bottle, pipe and outline the cookies in white. Then thin the icing to create a flood consistency. Add a few drop of water at a time to the white icing until it is the consistency of thick syrup. Repeat with pink icing. Use the squeeze bottle to fill the center of the outlined cookie with white flood icing. Pipe dots of pink around the perimeter and use a toothpick to pull the pink toward the cent of the cookie, to create a peppermint design. Repeat  with the remaining cookies and let dry for 24 hours. (Note: if the pink icing sits on the surface of the white without sinking in, then thin the icings a bit more.) This recipe is from: Bakerella

**I think it is a good idea to put the perimeter on all cookies first and then go in and fill them with the flood icing about 6 at a time... Add the designs and then repeat. Also, the toothpick is very helpful. I recommend that you not only use it to move the flood icing to the perimeter and to design, but also to pop any bubbles in the flood icing.

I hope you enjoy these cookies! They are fun and festive!