Thursday, 30 August 2012

Cupcake Kingdom: Red Velvet Cupcakes

This evening I have been very busy indeed! In preparation for one of my friend's birthday tomorrow I've been whipping up a storm in the kitchen much to the annoyance of Molly who is confused as to why he has yet to get his dinner! For the occasion I decided to get out my trusty bible when it comes to cupcakes and that is of course the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. If you like me love baking, if not for yourself but the enjoyment of others...this book is a must have for the collection!

I was torn between my favourites the Chocolate Cupcakes and the much talked about Red Vevlet Cupcakes. Too difficult a decision  really so I just decided to make both....sure why not, everyone loves cupcakes on Fridays right? So tonight I'm going to share with you the Hummingbird Red Velvet Cupcakes. These are a little trickier than your average cupcake but both aesthetically and taste wise, its definitely worth a little extra work. 



Red Velvet Cupcake

Makes: 12 approx.

Ingredients:
60g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
1 egg
10g cocoa powder
20ml red food colouring (Dr. Oetker's liquid colouring to be precise)
½tsp vanilla extract
120ml buttermilk     
150g plain flour
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½tsp white wine vinegar

For the cream cheese frosting:
300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g cream cheese, cold  

  

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.
2. Put the butter and the sugar in a free-standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or 
    use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy and well   
    mixed. Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is  
    well incorporated.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract   
    to make a thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly  
    combined and coloured (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a 
    rubber spatula). 
4. Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until  well  
    mixed, then add half the flour, and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this  
    process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added. Scrape down the side of the 
    bowl again. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until you have a  smooth, even
    mixture. 
5. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Beat 
    until well mixed, then turn up the speed again and beat for a couple more minutes.
6. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated
    oven for 20–25 mins, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted   
    in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before  
    turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. 

For the cream cheese frosting: 
Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a free-standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 mins. Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.
When the cupcakes are cold, spoon over the cream cheese frosting on top.  

If like me you like making cupcakes for special occasions check out the really cute carrier box I got so I can give these particular delicious treats to someone as a present. I picked this up in DEALZ (known as Poundland in the U.K.) for just €1.49, bargain.... I think so!

                

E-D's Notes

  • Just to take that that the above quantities for cream cheese frostings makes quite a lot of frosting. This frosting is quite heavy and I feel you don't need much of it as it can be a little over powering so maybe half the recipe unless you love cupcakes smothered in frosting. 
  • For the decoration I got these really lovely blue, white and red sugar balls from Sainsbury's for £1.20. The striped red cupcake cases are by Edingtons. I bought these ones in Meadows and Byrnes for €2.00 however they are readily available online and in good cook wear shops.
                



















Recipe adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, by Tarek Malouf 
(Ryland, Peters & Small, £16.99)

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Mixing Up Some Magic!

As some of you know I am an avid baker, cook and love house related paraphernalia and  knick-knacks! In total you could say I am enjoying being a grown up, with a little disposable income who gets to 'play house'. More than most I also love a good bargain, saving money, getting value and feeling I'v gotten a great 'aul deal.....wherever that may be! That said in January of this year.....I developed an obsession! An obsession of all things Kenwood and even more so all things Kenwood K-Mix (in raspberry red!). As a child my Mom always had a Kenwood Chef Mixer. She would always bake with us as children and let us spoon in the flour etc. to 'help' her (until the day I dropped the weighing scales into the Kenwood Bowl on high speed....I wasn't too popular that day). Because of these fond memories I always thought I'd like a Kenwood Chef probably due to the sense of nostalgia associated with it but also just because they're so handy! 

So one day in the depths of the Arnott's basement on Henry Street, I was having a little look. Two very helpful ladies rushed to my assistance when they saw me hovering by the K-Mix stand. I allowed them tell me the ins and outs of the K-Mix and do the hard sell! I smiled and nodded and asked all the right questions and told them I would be absolutely delighted to take one......if they knocked €100 off the price of €499. As my Dad always says to me 'If you don't ask you won't get!'. They looked dumbfounded and stunned but long story short following the two lovely ladies running up and down the stairs on numerous occasions for 'discussions' with the manager, my wish was granted! €100 off the price and they also threw in an adorable children's replica which is battery operated and can beat an egg....genius! (Pity my Mom didn't have one of these!). I was 'thrilled with the win' so to speak! I called in the reinforcements to help me carry it home (a.k.a Molly - man of muscle) and before I knew it I was home cooking up my very first batch of cupcakes to christen it! Ahh domestic bliss. 

So a series of K-Mix Products followed including a KMix Toaster, a KMix Tri-Blade Blender, KMix Hand Mixer and a K-Mix Blender. A little excessive...maybe, but I justify them all by using them excessively! 




Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

For as long as I can remember the wafting smell of the M&S bakery in the Jervis in Dublin has haunted me. Can't a girl just have a look around Boots without having to be lured in by that ever enticing smell of......Chocolate Chip Cookies! They are amazing and delicious and wonderful....but pricey! And it took me a long time to learn how to resist the temptation and to walk on by without buying one. But there is a very simple solution....and being the generous soul that I am, I'm going to share it with you. Here's the answer.....Learn to make the cookies yourself and learn how to make them even better!!!

So find below the recipe for my very own delicious version! Tried and tested at many family parties, team meetings in work and amongst friends, they have officially been stamped with the seal of approval by all!!!


Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes: 10-12 Cookies


Ingredients:

250g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp. salt
170g butter
220g brown sugar (how brown is up to you!)
100g sugar
1tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 large bar of chocolate, broken into pieces (200g) 
  (judge yourself just how chocolatey you want them to be)



Method:
1. Preheat oven to 160°C/145°C(fan oven)/Gas Mark 3. Grease 3 baking trays.
2. Sift the salt, soda and flour together in a bowl.
3. In a seperate bowl cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended 
    (Use a handheld mixer if you have one! or a freestanding mixer if doubling the recipe).
4. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy.
5. Mix in the flour until blended.
6. Stir in the chocolate pieces using a wooden spoon. Place spoonfuls of dough onto the trays 
    (ping pong ball sized). Leave plenty of space between each as they will spread out a lot.
7. Bake for 15-17 minutes (stopwatch!) until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on the tray for a 

    few minutes before placing on wire racks to cool totally.



E-D's Notes
- I can usually only fit 5 cookies per tray (at most). They really do spread out a lot so keep that in
  mind.
- You can choose what type of chocolate you want to use; dark, milk or white. You can even use   flavored chocolate like aero or orange chocolate. I personally like a mix of milk and white but 
  that's personal preference.

Find Me a Mascara: 7 Top Mascara Brands Battle it Out

A 7 Day Experiment, putting each of these products to the test...

The Contenders
  1. MAC, Zoom Lash                                                              RRP: €19.00
  2. Loreal Paris, Voluminous (with Ceramide-                        RRP: €15.50
  3. Maxfactor False Lash Effect 24                                        RRP: €17.00
  4. Yves Saint Laurent, Luxurious WaterProof Mascara            RRP: €31.50  
  5. Estee Lauder, Sumptuous Bold Volume, Lifting Mascara     RRP: €24.00  
  6. Clinique, High Lengths Mascara                                      RRP: €19.50 
  7. Clinique Lash Doubling Mascara                                      RRP: €19.50

*All of the above were purchased in black.



Day 1:
Product:         MAC Zoom Lash
Rating:           3/10
Brush Type:   Thin/Narrow with bristles.

Comment:
I am not a fan of this mascara at all. Though I can see it’s potential I really really dislike the brush. Any time I find myself using Zoom Lash I always have to brush my lashes through with a separate lash brush or wand from a different mascara, which frankly seems a lot like hard work. The brush itself when removed from the tube is clumpy and overloaded with product, and leaves a similar look on your eyelashes. I feel that this product with a wider brush where the mascara can be more evenly distributed may be a winner. But as it is, very poor performance for a steep €19.00. Not a winner in my books by any stretch of the imagination!


Day 2

Product:          Loreal Paris Voluminous (with Ceramide-R)
Rating:            7/10
Brush Type:    Average width/with bristles.

Comment:

Well I'm up and out with a full face of make-up after snoozing on my alarm twice! Today it was a blast from the past using Loreal's Voluminous. I used to use this Mascara years ago after getting a present of it for my birthday from my sister. First impressions the packaging is a bit old school.....grey and gold it just kind of looks like something my mother would have had in a make up bag 15 years ago....but we'll excuse Loreal for this! The brush once removed from the container again looks a little overloaded with product similar to MAC Zoom Lash, however once applied to the lashes distributes far more evenly. In fact I have to say this mascara is a lot better than I remember. No spider-lashes and my lashes did look thick without looking clumpy. I don't love this brush though, in fact I don't like it! I felt I had to pull it through my lashes a few times in order to remove any excess product. All in all as the cheapest mascara of the bunch, this has earned a permanent place in my make-up bag!


                                       

Day 3
Product:          Max Factor False Lash Effect 24
Rating:            9.5/10
Brush Type:    Large, wide brush, plastic, with textured plastic grooves instead of bristles

Comment:
Given that the day started off with the unnerving feeling that only got 7 hours sleep last night, I have to say I perked up when it came to doing my make up this morning. Max Factor False Lash Effect's packaging is sleek and modern. There are a number of mascara's available in the False Lash Effect range, but this morning I am testing False Lash Effect 24 in black. On removing the wand from its container I note that the brush is loaded with an appropriate amount of product....even when brand new! This is such a welcome change from the other two mascaras I have reviewed so far this week. The brush is large so I question it's suitability for a person with very short lashes, however for me (mid-long lashes) it is indeed the perfect fit! This mascara is so quick and easy to apply. I think the key is the brush. The brush evenly distributes the product through my lashes without having to repeatedly pull it through to evenly distribute. Two quick flicks, one up, one down and you really are ready to go! All in all my lashes look great, look long and full without looking overloaded. As far as I am concerned this is the mascara to have at arms reach at all times...I can't really fault it. The only thing I will say is that given you can buy it in Boots and other pharmacies, it's pretty pricey at  roughly€17.00 (depending where you buy). That said in comparison to some of the high end products it really holds its own. Just to let everyone know, False Lash Effect 24 is actually on special offer this week in Boots pharmacies for €11....and at this price, its a bargain! 



Day 4
Product:         Yves Saint Laurent, Luxurious WaterProof Mascara
Rating:            8/10
Brush Type:    Medium width brush with bristles.

Comment:
First and foremost I just love the packaging on this mascara. The sleek gold casing feels luxurious and expensive (probably because it is!). When removed the wand has an appropriate amount of product on the brush. The brush pulls through the lashes easily. With this mascara you need to try and limit yourself to a few strokes as if you keep pulling the brush through your lashes when the brush is loaded with product they can start to look a bit thick and 'spider' like. That said this can be easily avoided if you know this and use a minimal amount of product. In relation to the 'waterproof' element of this product, I can officially report after my mini-melt down this morning that this is 100% accurate. So much so however that taking this mascara off is actually quite difficult and you will need a good eye make-up remover solution to do so properly. All in all this mascara is very effective and very waterproof, but at €31 also very expensive. It's definitely in the splurge category but a very good mascara particularly if looking for one that is 100% waterproof.


Day 5
Product:         Estee Lauder, Sumptuous Bold Volume, Lifting Mascara
Rating:            5/10
Brush Type:    Narrow width brush with sparse bristles (conical shaped brush).

Comment:I didn't know very much about this mascara until this morning. I've never heard anyone I know mention it or I don't recall seeing it in a shop before I went looking for it. After using the mascara though I have a better insight as to why; this mascara is nothing exciting, exceptional or amazing. The packaging is gold and black, somewhat similar to that of Yves Saint Laurent but just not quite as nice. The brush when removed from the container appeared quite sparse in terms of the number of bristles compared to other mascara brushes seen this week. There was an adequate amount of product on the brush upon removal from the container. I needed to pull the brush through my lashes 7-8times in order to get even distribution and any kind of length effect. On completion, my lashes looked black however I cannot say that they looked thicker or volumised and I definitely wouldn't use the word 'sumptuous' to describe them! All in all I would say I was a little underwhelmed by this mascara given the price (RRP €24). Also to note I got caught in the rain whilst wearing this mascara and it smudged under my eyes. I am aware that this mascara does not purport to be water proof, that said I would hope it would withstand a couple of rain drops without running. 


Day 6
Product:         Clinique, High Lenths Mascara
Rating:            4/10
Brush Type:   Flexible curved, thin plastic brush. Plastic Flexible textured grooves instead of 
                       bristles.

Comment:
I was first made aware of this mascara in early 2010. The packaging gets this mascara noticed as it is all white which for me was intriguing. Being honest I picked this mascara up wondering what it was initially. The wand itself is somewhat unusual. It is arched or curved upwards and is bright green underneath all the product. Upon removal from the container the brush is coated with a nice thin layer of product and is in no way overloaded. Upon application the mascara distributes well but has no volumising effect on the lashes. Now given that I had my eight hours sleep and I'm pretty upbeat for a Monday morning I'm not sure how I managed this....but I poked myself in the eye with the wand. Painful you say? Well yes it was, very. So one would wonder how I managed to do it a second time in one morning, but I did when applying it to my other eye. I think it may be to do with the brush shape. To be honest maybe my eyes are the wrong shape for this brush but then again I have never considered my eyes to be in any way unusual! The curved angle of the brush makes in difficult to touch up the edges of your eyelashes on their own. In total I just found the brush awkward and fiddly. Given that I like most girls am used to using a straight brush I just found this brush difficult to use when applying the product. The overall effect of the mascara was adequate. Even distribution, some length effect and some clumping requiring 5-6 brush throughs to distribute the product evenly. Also to note when poked in the eye obviously I shed some tears (I seem to be in the habit of that when testing mascara) and this mascara is by no means tear or splash proof. Panda eyes on a Monday morning, not my best look!
                              
Day 7
Product:         Clinique, Lash Doubling Mascara
Rating:            3/10
Brush Type:   Tapered brush with bristles, medium width.


Comment:
Anyone who has ever bought anything from Clinique should be familiar with this mascara as they put it into every Clinique gift bag going. The packaging for this product is unexciting and to be honest the packaging in this case truly reflects the formula which lies within. This mascara is 'unexciting' and not one I would willingly spend my money on. It's grand if someone were to give it to you for free, but even then I'm not sure I would use it. When removed from the container the brush appears lightly coated with the product. I found I needed to put the wand back in to the container to re-coat the brush for my second eye. The mascara had some lengthening effect but this was in no way dramatic. As for the 'doubling' effect, I can't say that I noted any volumising effect at all. This mascara smudges easily and seems to wear as the say goes on. All in all I am not a big fan of this under achieving notorious freebie!

                        

Monday, 27 August 2012

Chocolate Fondant

I thought I'd get things off to a start on 'ED Does It' with something that's really really important to me....and that's food!!! I want to share with you one of my favourite all time recipes that's pretty easy once you've practised once or twice and looks really impressive if your serving it at a dinner party. When done right it is Oh So Good!!! But as I've learnt over the last couple of years whilst eating out and about...when done wrong it can be Oh so....disappointing. After lots of trial and error and after careful consideration and tweaking of numerous recipes....I give you the ultimate dessert recipe;

E-D's Easy Chocolate Fondant

Makes 2

Ingredients
50g unsalted butter, plus extra to grease
2 tsp cocoa powder, to dust
50g good quality bitter chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), in pieces
1 free range egg
1 free range egg yolk
60g caster sugar
50g plain flour, sifted 
Icing sugar, to dust
Vanilla ice cream to serve
    
Method
1. Preheat oven to 160°C/Gas 3.
2. Butter four ramekins (about 7.5cm in diameter), then dust liberally with cocoa, shaking out  
    any excess. If possible I recommend the kitchen craft moulds (as pictured).
3. Slowly melt the chocolate and butter in a small bowl set over a pan of hot water, then take off     the heat and stir until smooth. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.
4. Using an electric whisk, whisk the egg yolk, whole egg,  and sugar together until pale and 
    thick, then incorporate the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour. Divide the chocolate mixture  
    between the moulds and bake for 9-10 minutes (depending on your oven).
5. Turn the chocolate fondants out on to warmed plates. Dust the tops with icing sugar and 
     serve with a a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

E-D's Notes
A glass of cold milk is a must have with this fondant as far as I'm concerned.
More importantly...this dessert once perfected is a great one for your 'Culinary Bag of Tricks!'
Once perfected it's easy to whip up. The key to it is the timing! You NEED to time it with a
stopwatch!!! 1-2 minutes too long and the delicious melted chocolate goo at the centre of the
fondant will solidify and form a boring plain 'aul chocolate sponge!! Not so impressive. After
lots of research and debate in my house its has been agreed that the Kitchen Craft Moulds
below are a solid investment! I picked these ones up in Meadows & Byrnes but they are also
available on Amazon for under €10. See the link below for a look!



      E-D's Links
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