The world of baking and food through the eyes of an American in London

Taste of London 2011

Posted by on Jun 17, 2011 in Festival | 10 comments

I went to Taste of London 2011 on Thursday night. I feel like such a chump for going on Saturday afternoon all the previous years. Thursday was way more relaxed and a lot less crowded. I got £20 worth of crowns with my ticket and this was more than enough to fill me up. I looked at the menu on line before I went and decided how to spend my crowns. I would never be able to decide once I got there. I made sure to chose restaurants I hadn’t been to the last time. A few of the restaurants had the exact same dishes on the menu as the previous year.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to Taste of London now but I still enjoy going as I don’t spend a lot of money on fine dining in London. We tend to only go out for special occasions and I cook at home the rest of the time.
I arrived just before six and while I waited for my friend to arrive I wandered around all of the stalls first which was a great idea as there was no one looking around.

Heston Salted Caramel Popcorn Ice Cream. I enjoyed this a lot (but I love ice cream and already have my ticket for Sundae on the Common) and depending how much it is in Waitrose would be tempted to buy it again.

First dish was the Top Dog Deluxe from Gauthier Soho. I enjoyed this. Not too many hot dogs around in London (unless you want food poisoning from the guy that sells them near the night bus).

My friend chose a White Tomato Soup from Rhodes. It was some of the best tomato soup I’ve ever had. It had flavor which a lot of tomato soup seems to lack.

Amedei White Chocolate Mousse, water melon sorbet and fresh pistachio topping at Refettorio. I loved this. it was amazing as it looks.

Shrimp and Scallop burger at Scott’s. My friend said it was excellent.

This was one of my favorite’s of the night from L’Etranger. The Icon Wagyu Beef Burger with Black Truffle and Cantal Cheese sauce served with a Parmesan Polenta Sumo Chip. The dish was so hot I nearly burned my mouth.

Lemon Cheesecake, black sesame and Earl Gray syrup from Maze. Very nice dessert and loved the crumbly base.

A very large scoop of Raspberry and Rose sorbet from The Modern Pantry. The menu says with candied rose petals but it was topped with pistachios (which I like better anyway).

We finished the evening off with a cold glass of champagne. Really great night and we nearly made it home without getting rained on. Two minutes from the station there was a torrential downpour of course!

If you’re going to Taste this weekend Enjoy! I recommend all the dishes we ate.

Read my Taste of London 2010 round up here.

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Deep Fried Candy Bars & Oreos

Posted by on Jun 16, 2011 in Book Review, Candy, Chocolate | 10 comments

Deep Fried Candy Bars

This is the last recipe I’ll be blogging about from On a Stick!Make sure to read my review of the book here and also the Watermelon Sparkle Pops that were inspired from one of the recipes in the book.

Deep Fried Candy Bars

Deep fried candy bars are typically found in the US in State Fairs. I have yet to see them in England but hear that deep fried Mars bars are common in Scotland. These are definitely only to be enjoyed on special occasions. I chose to deep fry a Snickers bar and a few Oreos.

Deep Fried Candy Bars
The photos are a little dark but I only bought one Snickers bar and didn’t have long to photograph it!
Deep Fried Candy Bars
These are best served dusted with powdered sugar and shared with someone.
Deep Fried Candy Bars
adapted from On a Stick (makes 4 candy bars)
Ingredients
4 Popsicle sticks
4 candy bars or a mixture of candy bars and Double Stuffed Oreos (I “made” my own double stuffed by twisting apart two regular Oreos and using the two frosted halves)
2 cups vegetable oil
Batter
1 cup plain flour
1 cup milk
1/2 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Deep Fried Candy Bars
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a stick mid way through each candy bar. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Deep Fried Candy Bars
2. Heat the oil to 390 F. While that heats up make the batter by whisking the flour, milk, sugar, baking soda and salt together until smooth.

Deep Fried Candy Bars

3. Dip the chilled candy bars and Oreos in the batter and fry for 3-4 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar. 

Deep Fried Candy Bars
I fried them in my deep fryer but I think a pot like I use for making donuts is better as the candy bars stuck to the basket a little bit.

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Watermelon Sparkle Pops

Posted by on Jun 13, 2011 in Candy, Fruit | 5 comments

Watermelon Sparkle Pops

This is the first recipe I made from Matt Armendariz’s On a Stick! Read my review of the book here. In the book the recipe is for lollipops that fizz when dipped into a special mixture but since I decided to make these at the spur of the moment I didn’t have any citric acid.

Watermelon Sparkle Pops
Instead of making my pops fizzy I went with a sweet coating of caster sugar mixed with some edible glitter for that ‘wow’ factor. These taste like a supped up sparkly version of a Jolly Rancher.
Watermelon Sparkle Pops
Making your own hard candy at home is simple and these lollipops can be made in a variety of colors and flavors. They are pure sugar so eat in moderation! Don’t add to much food color as it will rub off on your tongue. Usually I say the more glitter the better but in this case less is more. Too much will give anyone that eats these a face full of glitter.
Watermelon Sparkle Pops
adapted from On a Stick! (makes 12-15)
Ingredients
15 lollipop sticks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup 
1 dram concentrated watermelon flavor (I like LorAnn brand which are designed for candy making)
1 drop gel paste food color in pink
Coating
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 tsp edible glitter
Watermelon Sparkle Pops
1. Place the lollipop sticks 3 inches a part on a silicone mat. If you have 2 mats use both as the mixture will start to set quickly after it’s taken off the heat.
Watermelon Sparkle Pops
2. In a medium saucepan bring the sugar, water and corn syrup to a boil. Continue cooking until it reaches 300 F on a candy thermometer (this will take about 30 minutes).
Watermelon Sparkle Pops
3. Once the temperature reaches 300 F remove from the heat and stir in the flavoring and food color. I transferred the mixture to a glass jug that would be easy to pour from.
Watermelon Sparkle Pops
4. Pour very carefully by hand round drops over the top of the sticks. You can use a special mold as well but follow the directions (chocolate and candy molds are not the same). 
Watermelon Sparkle Pops
Wait about 30 seconds before pouring. My first few pops were a little runny
5. Mix the caster sugar and glitter in a small bowl. Once completely cool brush each lollipop with water and lightly sprinkle the sugar mixture over top (don’t dip it in). 
Wrap each pop in cling film to keep them from sticking together. Wrapping a ribbon around each one would also be a nice for giving these as gifts.
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Columbia Road Flower Market & Cupcakes

Posted by on Jun 10, 2011 in Yummy Places | 8 comments

Columbia Rd Market

I went to Columbia Road Flower Market for the first time last Sunday and I can’t believe that I’ve waited this long (shameful as I live in the same Borough as the market). If you’re in London it’s worth a visit. The flowers are beautiful and you can get a glimpse of a real East London Cockney trader. There are also plenty of cupcakes! It was much easier to get to than I’d anticipated. There is an Overground Station nearby but I was able to get the bus from Canary Wharf to Liverpool Street and then walked to the market.

Columbia Rd Market
I was surprised there were so many cupcakes considering that the Flower Market hardly spans two blocks. Columbia Road itself boasts a line of quirky shops and cafes that I think rival Portobello Road. It was also much less crowded than Notting Hill on a Sunday.

Columbia Rd Market

Our first stop was the newly opened Lily Vanilli Bakery. Open on only Sunday, Lily offers a range of coffee and baked goods. My friend chose a brownie. She reported to me later that it was delicious. Some simple vanilla cupcakes were on offer with fruit toppings.

Columbia Rd Market

Simple and delicious

Columbia Rd Market

The cake was pure and simple. It was so soft I just wanted to use it as a pillow and sleep in it! She clearly “gets” what makes a good cake/cupcake and (seems to me) doesn’t sell them just because they’re popular.

Columbia Rd Market

Second stop was Treacle, which was really cute inside. It was a shop with cutsey things for sale and the cupcakes are in a big case up front.

Columbia Rd Market 
Columbia Rd Market

They had some minis for £1 each. I got a chocolate. It had a nice flavor and was moist but after eating the Lily Vanilli cupcake it didn’t have that same wow factor.
Columbia Rd Market
Vintage Heaven was my favorite shop on Columbia Road. It was stuffed with mismatched crockery galore! I bought some fun plates for £3 each to use for my food photos. You need to dig through the piles to find the gems. I’ll definitely be back for more.
Columbia Rd Market
Nestled in the back of Vintage Heaven is a little cafe, The Cake Hole (see Vintage Heaven website). It was so busy we didn’t stop here but I think I saw a sign stating they have cupcakes from The Primrose Bakery.

Columbia Rd Market

On the way home we stopped for lunch (in Spitalfields) at new retro fish n’ chip joint, Poppies. I’m not a fish expert but we really enjoyed it. The lemon sole I had was excellent. I prefer my chips a little more crispy but they were still good.

Columbia Rd Market

Columbia Road is perfect for an afternoon adventure! I’m loving the little cactus I bought for my desk at work for £4. The little pink flowers cheer me up on long days.

Columbia Rd Market

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Book Review: On a Stick!

Posted by on Jun 9, 2011 in Book Review | 10 comments

On a Stick! is my favorite book of the year so far by a mile. It’s full of fun and feel good recipes. Matt Armendariz pens the fabulous food blog Matt Bites, which I found through one of my other favorite blogs, What’s Gabby Cooking. He’s a former graphic designer and food art director.
As with any book that I buy or receive I start bookmarking which recipes I want to make. I know it’s a good book when I have a post it note on practically every page!
The theory behind the book is that every food tastes better on a stick and Matt has taken every sort of food ranging from street cart food, junk food, vegetarian and elegant hors d’oevures to name a few, and turned them into delightful party snacks and dishes on a stick.
The book takes you through different kinds of sticks, skewers and dips. The books is then split into two sections, savory and sweet. There is a good mix of simple and complex dishes, such as Grilled Fruit Skewers to Bo La Lot. There are also a lot of helpful tips and suggestions spread through the book and each recipe has a beautiful full color photograph.
Deep Fried Candy Bars
Deep Fried Candy Bars
I’ve already made four recipes from the book! I started off with deep fried candy bars (check back later for the recipe). There is no real equivalent of a State Fair in the UK and I’ve never been to one so I was eager to try these out. I also did up some Oreos that reminded me of my honeymoon in Aruba.
On a Stick!
I made the Chinese Meatballs as a main meal for two. My husband has already asked me to make it again. I also made the Beef and Vegetable Kebabs but forgot to take a picture. The marinades and dipping sauces in this book are fantastic.
On a Stick!
A fresh version of sweet chili sauce
I couldn’t resist making the Lollipops and adding my own little twist (check back later for the recipe).
Watermelon Sparkle Pops
Watermelon Sparkle Pops
The only downside I found in the book is that there are a few ingredients that are not available in the UK. The ice cream sandwich includes a recipe for chocolate chip cookies but the cinnamon rolls and pound cake call for the prepared kind in a can or store bought variety, which are not available in the UK. It is easy, however to find recipes from scratch for both on line (thank god for Google). 
I’ve already booked the classic American Corndog as my next recipe to make from the book!
I really enjoyed this book and look forward to cooking from it even more. On a Stick! is a great source for party food and will certainly lift the mood at any get together or dinner at home. 
Thanks to Quirk for my copy. On a Stick! is now available on Amazon UK for £6.79
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Triple Espresso Brownies

Posted by on Jun 6, 2011 in Brownies & Squares, Chocolate | 8 comments

Triple Espresso Brownies
I had a massive craving for coffee and chocolate last week. I used to get a coffee every day before work but have cut back recently and only get one (soy latte) on Friday as my end of the week treat. These brownies are a perfect treat too! I think they even top the Shortbread Brownies that until now have been the most popular brownies in our house.
Triple Espresso Brownies
These brownies are super soft and fudgey on the inside. I used three kinds of coffee in these, espresso powder, Green & Black’s Espresso Chocolate bar and Kona Coffee flavoring. You can use less if you don’t want such a strong coffee flavor.
Triple Espresso Brownies
I had to make these twice to get the recipe perfect. The first batch was a gross light brown color and hardly tasted of chocolate. I can guarantee these are fabulous!
Triple Espresso Brownies
adapted from Fat Witch Brownies (makes about 12 squares)
Ingredients
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs espresso powder
1 tsp Kona Coffee Flavor (I bought mine from LorAnn Oils)
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
100g Green & Back’s Espresso chocolate
 Triple Espresso Brownies
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Grease and flour a 9 x 9 inch pan and tap out the excess.
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Triple Espresso Brownies
2. In a small saucepan over low heat melt the butter. Transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool.
Triple Espresso Brownies
3. Add the cocoa powder and sugar and whisk until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each.
Triple Espresso Brownies
4. In a small bowl whisk together the espresso powder and one tablespoon of boiling water. Whisk into the butter mixture with the vanilla and Kona Coffee flavor. 
 Triple Espresso Brownies
5. Sift in the flour and salt. Finely chop the espresso chocolate and fold into the batter with a spatula. 
6. Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for 20-30 minutes. For more fudgey brownies check at 20 minutes for cakey bake a little longer (I like mine more fudgey).

Enjoy with a cup of coffee or glass of milk!

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Peggy Porschen Marble Fondant Flower Cake

Posted by on Jun 4, 2011 in Cake, Chocolate | 11 comments

My First Fondant Cake
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I made my very first fancy fondant decorated cake last week! This project was part of a book review I did on Peggy’s Favourite Cakes & Cookies click here to read it.

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My First Fondant Cake
The cake tasted amazing

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This cake took me an entire day to make (the only break I took was a late lunch at Spuntino). When undertaking a project like this kind of cake I would recommend breaking it up into a few steps across two or three days rather than doing it all in one day.
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My First Fondant Cake
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The hardest part of making this cake for me was covering the cake in fondant. I bought a few boxes of Wilton fondant when I was back home and my suitcase was searched on the way back and I think security opened the box so it was a little dry. It kept cracking hence why there are so many flowers on my cake. 
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I think I went a little overboard with the pink on this cake. I should have kept the fondant white and decorated it with the pink and white flowers. I used pink luster dust on the white fondant because I thought it would help hide some of the cracks.
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Usually when I take pictures the food looks better in person. In this case the cake looks a lot better in the photo! I was able to turn the cake so only the “good” side showed.
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The directions according to Peggy are to make and frost the cake and then cover it in marzipan and then the fondant. I’m not a huge fan of marzipan and the cake was only for me so I skipped this step and covered it only in fondant. I also didn’t have any sugar paste so I made all my flowers from fondant as well. I made my cake using the smallest cake tin I had. It’s maybe five-ish inches.
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Peggy Porschen Marble Fondant Flower Cake
adapted from Peggy’s Favourite Cakes & Cookies (makes about 5-6 slices)
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Equipment
1 Cake Board
2 blocks of fondant in different colors
Pearl Sprinkles
icing sugar (for dusting)
ribbon (optional)
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For the Marble Cake
Vanilla Batter
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self rising flour
1/4 tsp salt
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Chocolate Batter
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
70g self rising flour
30g cocoa powder
pinch of baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
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Vanilla Syrup
5 tbs water
75g sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1tsp vanilla paste (or seeds from 1/2 a pod)
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Vanilla Frosting
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
300g icing sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tbs milk
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My First Fondant Cake
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1. The first step is cover the cake board you’ll be using in fondant. Roll out the same color as you’ll be using for the cake covering, about 2mm thick. Brush a dusting of icing sugar and clear alcohol (I chose vodka. Don’t drink too much as you need to concentrate on this cake!) over the cake board. Place the fondant on top and use a cake smoother to press out any air bubbles. Trim the excess off with a sharp knife.
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My First Fondant Cake
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2. If desired, wrap a ribbon around the cake board and glue the ends down with royal icing (I didn’t have any so I skipped this step.
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My First Fondant Cake
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3. Make the vanilla syrup (which will be used to brush over the cake layers later). Pour the water and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Set aside to cool. Once it’s cool stir in the vanilla and vanilla paste. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge if not using right away.
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My First Fondant Cake

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4. Make the frosting. Cream the butter and icing sugar together on low speed. Beat in the milk, salt and vanilla until light and fluffy.
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My First Fondant Cake
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5. Make the cake. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Line the cake tin you’ll be using with parchment paper. Make the vanilla batter first in a medium bowl. Beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating after each. Sift in the flour and salt and stir to combine. Set aside.
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6. Make the chocolate batter. Beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating after each. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and stir to combine. Set aside.
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My First Fondant Cake

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7. Spread half the vanilla batter into the pan and scoop half of the chocolate batter on top. Using a fork or skewer run it through the batter to create a marble effect. If you have 2 cake tins do the same with the other half of the batter.

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My First Fondant Cake
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8. Bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer insert in the middle comes out clean. Take out of the oven and set aside to cool. Once cool repeat steps to bake the remaining batter.
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My First Fondant Cake
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9. Once the cake is completely cool. Cut evenly in half (trim off the top if necessary). Place a dab of buttercream on the cake board and place one half on top. Brush the top with the vanilla syrup and spread some butter cream on top. Place another layer on top. Repeat steps until there are 3 layers on the cake.
My First Fondant Cake
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10. My cake batter made four layers. I wrapped up the extra one and put in the freezer to use later.
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My First Fondant Cake
Only a little lopsided
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11. Cover the sides and top of the cake in buttercream. To make it more smooth use a metal scraper to clean up the sides (I don’t have one so I did my best with a knife). I put mine in the fridge for an hour or so to set.
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My First Fondant Cake 
Do a better job than this
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12. Roll out the fondant about 2mm thick in a round shape on a surface dusted with icing sugar and drape over the cake. Trim using a knife and smooth the sides and top.
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My First Fondant Cake
13. Make about 30-40 flower decoarations in 1-2 different colors. I used a a mold dusted in icing sugar and pressed a small ball of fondant into it. I pressed a pearl sprinkle in the center using some royal icing as glue. Place the flowers in a airtight container so they don’t dry out. Alternatively, roll out the fondant (same as above for the covering) and use a small cookie cutter to make a flower shape.
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My First Fondant Cake
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14. Once all the flowers are made glue each one with a dab of royal icing until the top of the cake is covered. If desired glue a few along the botton.
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To spread the tasks across a few days cover the cake board and make the flowers one day, make the cake and ice it on the second day and on the third day cover the cake in fondant and decorate.
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There you go! You made a fancy cake! If you’re interested in in more step by step directions check out Peggy’s book or head down to the parlour (if you live in London) for a cupcake or slice of cake.
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