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Friday, February 25, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin Explosion

Yes - ANOTHER recipe post.

I know...this blog has started to seem more like a cooking blog rather than a travel blog - but hang in there. We are off to Barcelona in a few weeks and Vietnam after that, so you'll be able to feast your eyes on tons of scenic pictures then.

But since its cold and gray and rainy in London this time of year (actually, I'm still waiting for a time of year when it ISN'T like that...) I prefer to hunker down inside where its warm and dry, and bake to my little hearts content.

On Sunday - I tackled bread.  Not quick bread (though I do love a good banana nut or pumpkin loaf) - real, yeast bread.

The last time I made a yeast bread I was in my early teens.

Why I was making bread in my early teens I have no idea - I had the baking bug early I guess.

Needless to say, that was some time ago.

I haven't really had much urge to bake yeast bread. The bread I get from the store is just fine, and since it's just the two of us in the house we usually don't even finish a whole loaf in one week.

But there was one bread recipe that kept catching my eye...luring me in. It's by Martha Stewart in her Baking Handbook cookbook (shout out to Maggs for buying me this cookbook some years back - it is a staple in my kitchen, and it has the cookie stains to prove it!).  It was this photo that inspired me, every time I opened that cookbook....

nom nom nom
I was worried that I would have a hard time making the bread since I don't have a Kitchenaid stand mixer *cough, christmas present, cough* - I wasn't sure if my hand mixer would be up for the task.  However, once I got in there I was pleasantly surprised! I didn't have that much of a struggle at all, and apart from a little extra elbow grease, the dough was ready!

And that's when I remembered how long yeast bread takes to make...two sessions of rising for almost 2 hours each, another hour of rising after the bread was rolled and in the hour in the oven...took me all the way to late afternoon. I was hungry!

This is what greeted me in the oven after 45 minutes of baking. Apparently I didn't seal the seams very well on the loaf to the left, as you can see there was an explosion of cinnamon doughy goodness spilling over the sides of the pan (thank god I put them on a baking tray!).  I didn't want that part to burn or spill out any more so I tore it off and put these babies back in the oven for another 20 minutes to finish up.

What happened to those cinnamony doughy goodness bits I have no idea...

....they might have ended up inside my belly.

But I can't remember - I was in heaven.

Of course I completely forgot to take a picture of the inside of the bread, so you could see the beautiful swirl of cinnamon and raisins. Just refer back to Martha's photo above.

Ok, it didn't look THAT was more like a big cinnamon blob in the middle of the bread.

But maybe that is actually better...?

Take that, Martha!

Project 52 - week 8

Happy Friday!!

I have to tell you - I am mighty glad its Friday...even more than usual this week.

It was quite the week -
particularly stressful week at work...
photography class for 3 hours after work every night...
stomach bug knocked me down for a couple days...
dog sitting for the second half of the week....
all on my own.

But have no fear, all is right in the world starting tomorrow. No work for two days....Brian gets back tomorrow afternoon...and I have a world of knowledge in my little brain about my camera and how to improve my photography.

So for the last two hours of this crazy week, I'm going to sit here with a glass of wine, food network on in the background, and show you my photos for Project 52. Not.too.shabby.

This weeks theme: The view from here...

OH what a theme! The possibilities!

At the end of what seemed like one of the busiest I have had this year (so far...) a blessing shined down on me - that little blessing was sunshine and temperatures over 50 F *cue angels singing*

It really is amazing what a little sunshine and warm weather will do for people - I actually saw people smiling and whistling walking down the street!

The view from here....was Spring!

Unfortunately I know this nice weather is short lived...back to freezing temperatures and rain by Monday. 

I'll take what I can get! Here are a few more of my favorites from this week...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Project 52 - week 7

Hi all! Ready for this weeks photo?

Me neither.

I actually almost didn't submit a photo this week as I didn't have time to take the photo that I wanted to fit the theme. Correction, I had the time and even had my camera with me - but of course I forgot to put the memory card in the camera. Of course.

This weeks theme was "Open your heart". I didn't want to go the obvious route and take a photo of something heart shaped, and that pretty much gave me zero ideas.

Finally, Friday morning as I was getting ready for work I had an AH HA! moment realizing the perfect thing to take a photo of.


Its been hard living over here - away from my friends and family, where the average temperature year round seems to hover around 50* and words like bin, rubbish and aubergine replace your normal vocabulary.

However, over the last two plus years I have slowly been opening my heart to London.

But don't worry New York - you're still number one!

Right, back to the story....I knew exactly where I was going to take my picture - on my bus ride to work every morning, just as we are going through Piccadilly Circus heading towards Green Park, the street opens up and you can see right down to Parliament. The light is usually so pretty at that time and sometimes when its a little foggy it can look like a painting of old world London (bar the Pizza Hut sign on the corner).

Half way in to my journey to work my stomach suddenly dropped. I opened up my camera and found the memory card slot empty. Sinking further, I tried taking a test photo to see if my camera had some sort of smaller internal memory card that I could at least use to take a couple shots. No such luck. Sunk.

One OTHER thing I opened my heart up to this week were those fantastic Guinness et al cupcakes I made over the weekend!  Thus - this weeks photo....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reader Mail

Every once in a while I get an email response to one of my blog posts. Nothing makes me happier than getting a personal email from one of my readers. Typically, said emails are from a few of the same faithful readers (a big shout out to G+G especially!), and I love hearing what people have to say about what I have to say.

I'm getting to the point, don't worry.

The other day I received this email about my recent Guinness Cupcake post -

"I think we could skip all that fattening stuff and get right to the Guiness with a shot of Irish whiskey mixed in with Baileys on the side.  I suppose you could put a cupcake wrapper around the Guiness if you wanted to......."

While I don't happen to fully agree with this reader, as I live for the "fattening stuff" (ie chocolate, butter and sugar....*drool*) I see what he's getting at...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Guinness Cupcakes with Whiskey Ganache and Baileys Frosting

Yes my friend, you read that correctly.

This little gem came to me by way of Miss Maggie Stumpf. She found it on

I decided to make them as an early Valentines Day gift for Brian. He cleaned the bathroom for my Valentines Day gift. I think thats a pretty good deal for both of us.

These are a little more labor intensive than regular cupcakes, but they are so worth the extra effort.

First, chocolate and Guinness cupcakes are baked.  The Guinness makes the cupcakes so light and fluffy, I was amazed. MMmmm foamy beer goodness.

While the cupcakes are baking you can make and cool the Whiskey ganache. This was actually my first time making ganache, and now its my favorite word. I didn't have an apple corer or a round cookie cutter, so I used a liquid injector. Not as easy as it sounds since ganache is not actually a liquid. But thats what I have a big, strong husband for.

And yes, he did help make his own cupcakes. Shush.

Once the cupcakes are filled its time to make the frosting!

Butter. Powdered Sugar. Baileys.



I tried to get a little fancy with a plastic baggy (next on my "to buy" list is a piping kit, by the way), but I'm not sure it came out as sophisticated as I hoped...tastes just as good though!

Go ahead - try them for yourself!
Adopted from Smitten Kitchen

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup Guinness (or other stout beer)
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling
8 ounces dark chocolate (I used a mix of milk and dark chocolate)
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Baileys Frosting
3-4 cups confections sugar (I used 3 cups)
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys

1-inch round cookie cutter, an apple corer or liquid injector (not recommended, but it gets the job done)

To make the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. 
  3. Bring 1 cup Guinness and 1 cup butter to a simmer in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. 
  4. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth, cool slightly.
  5. Stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl. 
  6. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.
  7. Add Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. 
  8. Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat briefly on a slow speed. 
  9. Using a rubber spatula, fold in batter until completely combined. 
  10. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. 
  11. Bake cupcakes until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. 
  12. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the ganache 
  1. Chop up the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. 
  2. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. 
  3. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth (you can melt it further in the microwave for 15-20 seconds at a time if the chocolate isn't completely melted). 
  4. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes:
  1. Let the ganache cool until it is thick but still soft enough to be piped 
  2. Meanwhile, cut out the centers of the cooled cupcakes with your 1-inch round cookie cutter or apple corer.  Make sure you don't cut all the way down to the bottom of the cupcake. 
  3. Put the cooled ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.
  4. If you are using a liquid injector, fill the cupcakes until you can see the top pop up a bit, trying not to burst open the cupcake.

Make the frosting:
  1. Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want it to be very light and fluffy.
  2. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a quarter cup at a time.
  3. When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys and whip it until combined.
  4. Frost and decorate the cupcakes until your little heart is content

Happy Valentine's Day!

Brians Birthday Weekend

Last weekend we were off to Dublin for a quick trip for Brians birthday. We dragged our friends Adrienne and Sean along with us (not that we had to try that hard) and had a great night! Yup, night. Singular. Actually we were only there for about 28 hours. Thats how we roll.

Immediately upon arrival we headed to the Guinness factory. Ok fine, we checked in to the hotel first, but Brian was literally tapping his foot with one hand on the door ready to go.  If you'll remember Brian also went to Dublin on his birthday last year - yes folks this seems to becoming a tradition.

The Guinness factory was actually really cool. Its a self guided tour so you can take as little or much time as you like learning all about Guinness, they give you a free taste (or 6) of Guinness and a full pint in the sky bar is included in the ticket! And they have the biggest gift store ever, which explains why Brian came home with an armful of Guinness goodies last year.

barley for the beer
thats a lot of barley! 
water to make the beer

getting our free sample 
more free samples...

After we were done with the tour we headed up to the Brewery Bar for some grub. As you would guess a lot of the items on the menu are made with Guinness, which I have learned is pretty genius. Take for example my Beef and Guinness stew...

you can see Brians stew in the back!
 Or Adriennes Guinness glazed Irish bacon...

umm ridiculous

After a couple more hours up at the sky bar (with amazing views of the city of Dublin, except not when we were there because obviously it was grey and rainy) we decided it was time to move on. To another pub.

We had a great night out with dinner at Brasserie Sixty6 and of course frequenting the many pubs in Temple Bar.

The next morning we had a delicious breakfast at Queen of Tarts, which Brians brothers girlfriend recommended to us as she still dreams about their chocolate pear tart (which I took back to London with me and now I also have said dreams). We only had a little time left before our flight so obviously we booked it to the Jameson distillery. We didn't actually have enough time to take the tour, but we managed to indulge in some Jameson hot chocolate and irish coffee before it was time to head out.

And then we were at the airport.

And that is where I discovered the

I think it was called something like Chocolate World (I made that up, I don't remember what it was called, as clearly I was too distracted by what my eyes were seeing to pay attention to the name). And it had cupcakes, treats and champagne on a conveyor belt for you to pick and chose as you wish.

ummm, seriously??


And on that note,

The End

Project 52 - week 6

Its that time again - Project 52 time!

The theme for this week was "Words".

I was a little stuck for ideas, so I checked out the Flickr group to see what other people had posted for this theme. A lot of people took pictures of their favorite books, either on a shelf or open or stacked up. I decided that I wanted to go a completely different route. I headed to Soho in London to check out what kind of cool shop and street signs I could find.

And there I found neon. Lots of neon lights.

No this isn't a neon sign to strip club. That sign would say "girls", c'mon now.

Actually this was taken at a clothing store (I don't even remember what the name of the store was), and it had two entrances - one labeled "male" and the other "female".

I wish I had a bigger zoom lens, I really wanted to get up there in the letters.

The theme for week 7 is aptly related to Valentines Day - open your heart.

Any suggestions?

Here are a few more favorites from my neon photo shoot.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Project 52 - week 4 and 5


I missed posting my Project 52 submit last week...this is what happens when you buy season 3 and 4 of Mad Men and you shut yourself in your flat and are cut off from the rest of the world.

No offense.

The theme for week 4 was "Soothing Repetition".  I was really stumped on what to shoot for this theme. Technically, you don't have to follow the theme each week, but I was up for the challenge. So I thought. And I thought. And I thought.