Monday, 26 July 2010

Caramel Honeycomb Popcorn


If you asked me why I decided to make caramel popcorn this week I'd give you my honest answer - I have no idea!  I don't know what on earth possessed me to make this sticky sweet snack, but it was a nice change instead of the cakes and cookies I usually make.  I think the idea may have stemmed from a recent trip to the movies (aka the cinema here in the UK) where I indulged in a bit of popcorn, BUT the popcorn they serve in the UK is not like the popcorn the serve in North American movie theatres.  Why you ask?  Well, for starters they don't have buttery popcorn here!  The first time I went to a movie theatre and ordered popcorn the girl behind the counter asked me what flavour I'd like.  "Just buttery please", I said.  Then came the strange look and her reply - "Huh? We don't have buttery popcorn. You must be American."  It turns out that here in the UK they sell 2 kinds of popcorn - sweet or salty.  The salty popcorn has a fine mist of salt on it, and I guess the closet thing that would come close to the sweet popcorn is American kettle corn.  As time's gone by I've learned to enjoy both flavors, but my favorite way to eat popcorn at movies here is to mix both the sweet and salty together.  It's really quite nice!  The other major difference about popcorn here in the UK is that generally popcorn isn't eaten at home as much as it is in North America.  One of the first things that was added to our UK wedding registry was a hot air popcorn maker - not the most common appliance in a UK kitchen.  Back home in Canada I was quite the popcorn connoisseur, and was always in charge of whipping up a batch when a group of friends got together to watch a movie. Making good buttery popcorn was one of the few kitchen skills I learned from my father.  My mom the Home-Ec teacher gets credit for the rest.  Over the years I've tried quite a few flavor combinations, but I've never made my own caramel popcorn - until now.  Caramel popcorn is just one of those things that's nice to snack on every once in a while, plus it's great to share with friends at get togethers like summer BBQ's.  And, I have to admit - it looks quite impressive if you package it up in a cellophane bag with a bow and give it away as a gift at Christmas time. At the last minute, I decided to add a little something extra to my caramel popcorn and threw in some Crunchy Bar pieces.  You know, just cuz. 


To make your own caramel popcorn you'll need some of that dreaded, yet infamous American ingredient - Corn Syrup.  Since moving to the UK I've come across countless recipes that I'd love to try, but they all called for corn syrup - something that is very hard to find in the UK.  Luckily about a year ago I discovered that clear corn syrup was available at the Kensington location of Whole Foods in London, so now I've always got a bottle at home in my cupboard.  UK'ers - if your looking for corn syrup give some of these places a try.  You could also try using Lyles Golden Syrup, but I can't guarantee that it would turn out, or if the flavor would be the same.



Caramel Honeycomb Popcorn

1/4 cup (60g) butter
1 cups (200g) brown (muscovado) sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 cups (75g) popped popcorn
2 Crunchy Bars chopped

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (95 degrees C). Place the popped popcorn in a very large bowl.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour in a thin stream over popcorn, stirring to coat.
3. Place popcorn in a pre-greased large shallow baking pan (such as a turkey roaster) and bake in preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes, for 1 hour.
4. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle the Crunchy bar pieces over the warm popcorn so that the chocolate melts and sticks to the popcorn.  Cool completely before breaking into pieces and serving.

Caramel Honeycomb Popcorn


If you asked me why I decided to make caramel popcorn this week I'd give you my honest answer - I have no idea!  I don't know what on earth possessed me to make this sticky sweet snack, but it was a nice change instead of the cakes and cookies I usually make.  I think the idea may have stemmed from a recent trip to the movies (aka the cinema here in the UK) where I indulged in a bit of popcorn, BUT the popcorn they serve in the UK is not like the popcorn the serve in North American movie theatres.  Why you ask?  Well, for starters they don't have buttery popcorn here!  The first time I went to a movie theatre and ordered popcorn the girl behind the counter asked me what flavour I'd like.  "Just buttery please", I said.  Then came the strange look and her reply - "Huh? We don't have buttery popcorn. You must be American."  It turns out that here in the UK they sell 2 kinds of popcorn - sweet or salty.  The salty popcorn has a fine mist of salt on it, and I guess the closet thing that would come close to the sweet popcorn is American kettle corn.  As time's gone by I've learned to enjoy both flavors, but my favorite way to eat popcorn at movies here is to mix both the sweet and salty together.  It's really quite nice!  The other major difference about popcorn here in the UK is that generally popcorn isn't eaten at home as much as it is in North America.  One of the first things that was added to our UK wedding registry was a hot air popcorn maker - not the most common appliance in a UK kitchen.  Back home in Canada I was quite the popcorn connoisseur, and was always in charge of whipping up a batch when a group of friends got together to watch a movie. Making good buttery popcorn was one of the few kitchen skills I learned from my father.  My mom the Home-Ec teacher gets credit for the rest.  Over the years I've tried quite a few flavor combinations, but I've never made my own caramel popcorn - until now.  Caramel popcorn is just one of those things that's nice to snack on every once in a while, plus it's great to share with friends at get togethers like summer BBQ's.  And, I have to admit - it looks quite impressive if you package it up in a cellophane bag with a bow and give it away as a gift at Christmas time. At the last minute, I decided to add a little something extra to my caramel popcorn and threw in some Crunchy Bar pieces.  You know, just cuz. 


To make your own caramel popcorn you'll need some of that dreaded, yet infamous American ingredient - Corn Syrup.  Since moving to the UK I've come across countless recipes that I'd love to try, but they all called for corn syrup - something that is very hard to find in the UK.  Luckily about a year ago I discovered that clear corn syrup was available at the Kensington location of Whole Foods in London, so now I've always got a bottle at home in my cupboard.  UK'ers - if your looking for corn syrup give some of these places a try.  You could also try using Lyles Golden Syrup, but I can't guarantee that it would turn out, or if the flavor would be the same.



Caramel Honeycomb Popcorn

1/4 cup (60g) butter
1 cups (200g) brown (muscovado) sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 cups (75g) popped popcorn
2 Crunchy Bars chopped

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (95 degrees C). Place the popped popcorn in a very large bowl.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour in a thin stream over popcorn, stirring to coat.
3. Place popcorn in a pre-greased large shallow baking pan (such as a turkey roaster) and bake in preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes, for 1 hour.
4. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle the Crunchy bar pieces over the warm popcorn so that the chocolate melts and sticks to the popcorn.  Cool completely before breaking into pieces and serving.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Really "Cool" Cupcakes


See this cupcake?  It's not a regular cupcake you know.  Sure, it looks like your run of the mill cupcake but don't be fooled - it's not!  For starters you can eat the wrapper! Yup, that's right, no need to peel this baby - just bite straight in!  But be careful - this could get messy.  These cupcakes can't be left out on one of those fancy dancy cupcake stands for long.  You wanna know why?  Because they'll melt!  That's because these cupcakes are made with ice cream! Yes that's correct, there's ice cream inside so you'll have to eat these quickly before the summer heat gobbles them up instead.


These ice cream cupcakes are the ultimate chocolate indulgence.  Crunchy chocolate shell + Chocolate Cake + Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream + Chocolate Frosting = the perfect summertime treat!


To make these "cool" ice cream cupcakes you'll need some silicone baking cups, some chocolate candy melts, a few cupcakes or a thin sheet cake, your favourite ice cream, and some icing. 



Ice Cream Cupcakes

Silicone Baking Cups
Chocolate Candy Melts
Cupcakes or a thin cake
Ice Cream (softened)
Icing/Frosting

1. Melt the candy melts, and coat the inside of each silicone baking cup with a thick layer of chocolate so that you can't see any light through the chocolate when you hold the silicone baking cup up to the light. I used a silicone pastry brush, but a regular (new) paint brush or even a tea spoon would work just fine. Put the chocolate coated silicone baking cups in the fridge to chill. Once set very carefully peel the silicone cup away from the chocolate and pop the chocolate shell out.

2. Now for the cake bit - if your using cupcakes, cut the cupcake in half so you have a top and bottom half. If your using a regular cake make sure it's not too thick (approx 3/4" thick). Using a cookie cutter or knife, cut out a circle of cake and fit it into the bottom of the chocolate cup.

3. Take your favourite ice cream (let if soften up a bit) and spoon it on top of the cake until it fills the remainder of the chocolate cup and put them back in the freezer to re-set.

4. Once the ice cream has re-frozen and is no longer soft, pipe a big swirl of frosting on top.  Serve immediately, or freeze until ready to serve.


Oh, and if for some strange reason you don't like cake (but c'mon who doesn't like cake?) you can leave the cake out and make them with just ice cream.

Really "Cool" Cupcakes


See this cupcake?  It's not a regular cupcake you know.  Sure, it looks like your run of the mill cupcake but don't be fooled - it's not!  For starters you can eat the wrapper! Yup, that's right, no need to peel this baby - just bite straight in!  But be careful - this could get messy.  These cupcakes can't be left out on one of those fancy dancy cupcake stands for long.  You wanna know why?  Because they'll melt!  That's because these cupcakes are made with ice cream! Yes that's correct, there's ice cream inside so you'll have to eat these quickly before the summer heat gobbles them up instead.


These ice cream cupcakes are the ultimate chocolate indulgence.  Crunchy chocolate shell + Chocolate Cake + Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream + Chocolate Frosting = the perfect summertime treat!


To make these "cool" ice cream cupcakes you'll need some silicone baking cups, some chocolate candy melts, a few cupcakes or a thin sheet cake, your favourite ice cream, and some icing. 



Ice Cream Cupcakes

Silicone Baking Cups
Chocolate Candy Melts
Cupcakes or a thin cake
Ice Cream (softened)
Icing/Frosting

1. Melt the candy melts, and coat the inside of each silicone baking cup with a thick layer of chocolate so that you can't see any light through the chocolate when you hold the silicone baking cup up to the light. I used a silicone pastry brush, but a regular (new) paint brush or even a tea spoon would work just fine. Put the chocolate coated silicone baking cups in the fridge to chill. Once set very carefully peel the silicone cup away from the chocolate and pop the chocolate shell out.

2. Now for the cake bit - if your using cupcakes, cut the cupcake in half so you have a top and bottom half. If your using a regular cake make sure it's not too thick (approx 3/4" thick). Using a cookie cutter or knife, cut out a circle of cake and fit it into the bottom of the chocolate cup.

3. Take your favourite ice cream (let if soften up a bit) and spoon it on top of the cake until it fills the remainder of the chocolate cup and put them back in the freezer to re-set.

4. Once the ice cream has re-frozen and is no longer soft, pipe a big swirl of frosting on top.  Serve immediately, or freeze until ready to serve.


Oh, and if for some strange reason you don't like cake (but c'mon who doesn't like cake?) you can leave the cake out and make them with just ice cream.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Vanilla and Lemon Curd Layer Cake

Every once in a while there comes a special occasion that warrants a cake a little more extravagant than your regular sheet cake or cupcake.   For me that occasion comes only once a year.  No, it's not my birthday - although I can assure you, extravagant things are definitely accepted on that day!  The day I'm talking about is actually my wedding anniversary.  It's only come twice so far, but that doesn't mean it's any less significant to celebrate than if we were celebrating it for the 10th time.


Our original wedding cake was huge.  It was made up of 5 tiers (each a different flavour) with pink roses in between each tier, and fed nearly 200 people.  This time it was just the two of us, so I felt a single cake with 5 layers was more than sufficient.  I decided to take various elements from our wedding and use them as inspiration.  The actual cake it self was lemon flavoured with vanilla buttercream and lemon curd in between each layer - a similar flavour to the top tier of our original cake.  The outside of the cake was covered in lemon flavoured fondant, with fondant circles in different shades of pink and brown  - the colours from our wedding 2 years earlier.  I had planned on putting a few pink roses or peonies (the flowers from our wedding) on top of the cake, but London was in the midst of a heat wave, and at 31ºC (88ºF) inside our flat (apartment)  I figured the flowers would wilt before I could even put them on the cake. 


I had already made a few tissue paper pom poms (inspired from the balls covered in pink roses we had  hanging  at our wedding) to decorate the table with, so I made a miniature version to use on top of the cake. If you're interested in making your own tissue paper pom poms you can get the instructions here.


The cake itself was super easy to make - I used a Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme Cake Mix (I was too lazy to make my own from scratch) that I brought back from the US, (but available from here in the UK)  some vanilla buttercream and some lemon curd. Spread a layer of vanilla buttercream on the first layer of cake, then add a few spoonfuls of lemon curd on top and spread it evenly over the buttercream.  Add the next layer of cake, and repeat the buttercream and lemon curd process.  Do this for all the layers except the top layer of the cake.  Now you'll need to cover the whole cake in a thick layer of buttercream icing.  You could stop here and the cake would still taste great, but I wanted mine to look a bit fancier so I covered it in fondant and added the circles. The cake was amazing - a perfect combination of sweet vanilla and tart lemon. This cake would also taste great if you used a vanilla cake instead of the lemon.

Here's the cake with the rest of the tissue paper pom poms.  Serve it with some Country Time Pink Lemonade (available here in the UK) and you've got a perfect afternoon snack for two. 

Vanilla and Lemon Curd Layer Cake

Every once in a while there comes a special occasion that warrants a cake a little more extravagant than your regular sheet cake or cupcake.   For me that occasion comes only once a year.  No, it's not my birthday - although I can assure you, extravagant things are definitely accepted on that day!  The day I'm talking about is actually my wedding anniversary.  It's only come twice so far, but that doesn't mean it's any less significant to celebrate than if we were celebrating it for the 10th time.


Our original wedding cake was huge.  It was made up of 5 tiers (each a different flavour) with pink roses in between each tier, and fed nearly 200 people.  This time it was just the two of us, so I felt a single cake with 5 layers was more than sufficient.  I decided to take various elements from our wedding and use them as inspiration.  The actual cake it self was lemon flavoured with vanilla buttercream and lemon curd in between each layer - a similar flavour to the top tier of our original cake.  The outside of the cake was covered in lemon flavoured fondant, with fondant circles in different shades of pink and brown  - the colours from our wedding 2 years earlier.  I had planned on putting a few pink roses or peonies (the flowers from our wedding) on top of the cake, but London was in the midst of a heat wave, and at 31ºC (88ºF) inside our flat (apartment)  I figured the flowers would wilt before I could even put them on the cake. 


I had already made a few tissue paper pom poms (inspired from the balls covered in pink roses we had  hanging  at our wedding) to decorate the table with, so I made a miniature version to use on top of the cake. If you're interested in making your own tissue paper pom poms you can get the instructions here.


The cake itself was super easy to make - I used a Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme Cake Mix (I was too lazy to make my own from scratch) that I brought back from the US, (but available from here in the UK)  some vanilla buttercream and some lemon curd. Spread a layer of vanilla buttercream on the first layer of cake, then add a few spoonfuls of lemon curd on top and spread it evenly over the buttercream.  Add the next layer of cake, and repeat the buttercream and lemon curd process.  Do this for all the layers except the top layer of the cake.  Now you'll need to cover the whole cake in a thick layer of buttercream icing.  You could stop here and the cake would still taste great, but I wanted mine to look a bit fancier so I covered it in fondant and added the circles. The cake was amazing - a perfect combination of sweet vanilla and tart lemon. This cake would also taste great if you used a vanilla cake instead of the lemon.

Here's the cake with the rest of the tissue paper pom poms.  Serve it with some Country Time Pink Lemonade (available here in the UK) and you've got a perfect afternoon snack for two. 

Monday, 12 July 2010

Please Sir, May I Have S'more?


When you move to another country it's weird how you crave things you'd never normally eat on a regular basis.  Things that you haven't had in years.  Things that you'd eat when you were a kid, but felt too silly to eat once you got a bit older.  Things like smores.  I'm pretty sure most North Americans have had a smore or two in their life.  Whether you had them on a group camping trip (former Girl Guides and Girl Scouts raise you hands!) or made them while roasting marshmallows over a fire pit in your back yard, smores are some what of a childhood tradition.  For those of you (most people outside North America?) who don't know what a smore is, they're traditionally made by toasting a marshmallow on a stick over an open fire before  sandwiching it in between two graham crackers and a few squares of chocolate.  The heat from the toasted marshmallow melts the chocolate, and what you end up with is a warm gooey chocolaty cookie sandwich - delicious!  Since Graham Crackers aren't available in the UK most people will use digestive biscuits as a substitute when they're making things like cheesecake crusts, etc.   So that means if you're living in the UK and you tried to make a smore, it might turn out looking like a bit like something in the picture above.  Although digestive biscuits are the closest alternative, they're nothing like an actual Graham Cracker.   Trust me on this -  I know. 

Because digestive biscuits are rather fragile and crumbly, they would probably crack and fall apart if you did try and use them to make smores.  But there's no need to worry UK'ers!  I've come up with a very good alternative to the traditional smore, and there's no camp fire required!  Instead of sandwiching marshmallows and chocolate between two cookies, these smores are made in a pan and baked in the oven.  Besides the 3 key ingredients you'll need a few extras, but these smore bars are still just as simple to make as the original.



Start out with some digestive biscuits or graham crackers and put them in a food processor until you get a fine crumb.  Mix the crumbs with some sugar and melted butter, and press the mixture into the bottom of a pan to form the base of the bars.  Next you'll need some melted chocolate to cover the cookie crumb base.  In the US Hershey's chocolate is traditionally used for smores, but it's not readily available in the UK and most people here don't like the taste of Hershey's chocolate, so I used a few melted Cadbury Dairy Milk bars instead.  After covering the cookie base with the chocolate you'll need to put down a layer of marshmallows that have been cut in half.  Marshmallows are very popular in the UK, except they're more commonly eaten as a candy (sweet) instead of as a baking ingredient like we use them in North America.  I use marshmallows in a lot of my baking, so I buy the big bags of American ones from CostCo.  The marshmallows in the UK come in smaller bags, and  usually  come in a mixture of white and pink. UK marshmallows are also a bit smaller than the American ones.  Not really a surprise though is it?  


 After you've added the layer of marshmallows, put the pan in the oven until the marshmallows get all nice and golden brown.  


Finally sprinkle the remaining cookie crumbs on top of the marshmallows and bake for a bit longer.  When they're done you'll have a yummy bar layered with cookie crumbs, chocolate and marshmallows. It'll look something like this:




S'mores Bars

1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons white sugar
1-1/2 cups graham cracker or digestive cookie crumbs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used about 6 small Dairy Milk bars)
1-1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
(I used 30 large ones cut in half)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and grease a 9x13 inch (23x33 cm) baking dish.
2. In a medium bowl, combine butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs until well combined. Press three quarters of crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
3. Top with the melted chocolate, and then the halved marshmallows.
4. Bake until marshmallows turn a light golden brown colour, and then take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the remaining graham cracker mixture over the marshmallows.
5. Bake for another 5-10 mins. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

* I think these taste best if they're re-heated in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.  Serve them on a plate and eat them with a fork if you're going to eat them warm because they can be really messy.

And if you're able to get your hands on pink marshmallows, you can also make pink smores.  They'll look something like this:

 


Please Sir, May I Have S'more?


When you move to another country it's weird how you crave things you'd never normally eat on a regular basis.  Things that you haven't had in years.  Things that you'd eat when you were a kid, but felt too silly to eat once you got a bit older.  Things like smores.  I'm pretty sure most North Americans have had a smore or two in their life.  Whether you had them on a group camping trip (former Girl Guides and Girl Scouts raise you hands!) or made them while roasting marshmallows over a fire pit in your back yard, smores are some what of a childhood tradition.  For those of you (most people outside North America?) who don't know what a smore is, they're traditionally made by toasting a marshmallow on a stick over an open fire before  sandwiching it in between two graham crackers and a few squares of chocolate.  The heat from the toasted marshmallow melts the chocolate, and what you end up with is a warm gooey chocolaty cookie sandwich - delicious!  Since Graham Crackers aren't available in the UK most people will use digestive biscuits as a substitute when they're making things like cheesecake crusts, etc.   So that means if you're living in the UK and you tried to make a smore, it might turn out looking like a bit like something in the picture above.  Although digestive biscuits are the closest alternative, they're nothing like an actual Graham Cracker.   Trust me on this -  I know. 

Because digestive biscuits are rather fragile and crumbly, they would probably crack and fall apart if you did try and use them to make smores.  But there's no need to worry UK'ers!  I've come up with a very good alternative to the traditional smore, and there's no camp fire required!  Instead of sandwiching marshmallows and chocolate between two cookies, these smores are made in a pan and baked in the oven.  Besides the 3 key ingredients you'll need a few extras, but these smore bars are still just as simple to make as the original.



Start out with some digestive biscuits or graham crackers and put them in a food processor until you get a fine crumb.  Mix the crumbs with some sugar and melted butter, and press the mixture into the bottom of a pan to form the base of the bars.  Next you'll need some melted chocolate to cover the cookie crumb base.  In the US Hershey's chocolate is traditionally used for smores, but it's not readily available in the UK and most people here don't like the taste of Hershey's chocolate, so I used a few melted Cadbury Dairy Milk bars instead.  After covering the cookie base with the chocolate you'll need to put down a layer of marshmallows that have been cut in half.  Marshmallows are very popular in the UK, except they're more commonly eaten as a candy (sweet) instead of as a baking ingredient like we use them in North America.  I use marshmallows in a lot of my baking, so I buy the big bags of American ones from CostCo.  The marshmallows in the UK come in smaller bags, and  usually  come in a mixture of white and pink. UK marshmallows are also a bit smaller than the American ones.  Not really a surprise though is it?  


 After you've added the layer of marshmallows, put the pan in the oven until the marshmallows get all nice and golden brown.  


Finally sprinkle the remaining cookie crumbs on top of the marshmallows and bake for a bit longer.  When they're done you'll have a yummy bar layered with cookie crumbs, chocolate and marshmallows. It'll look something like this:




S'mores Bars

1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons white sugar
1-1/2 cups graham cracker or digestive cookie crumbs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used about 6 small Dairy Milk bars)
1-1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
(I used 30 large ones cut in half)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and grease a 9x13 inch (23x33 cm) baking dish.
2. In a medium bowl, combine butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs until well combined. Press three quarters of crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
3. Top with the melted chocolate, and then the halved marshmallows.
4. Bake until marshmallows turn a light golden brown colour, and then take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the remaining graham cracker mixture over the marshmallows.
5. Bake for another 5-10 mins. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

* I think these taste best if they're re-heated in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.  Serve them on a plate and eat them with a fork if you're going to eat them warm because they can be really messy.

And if you're able to get your hands on pink marshmallows, you can also make pink smores.  They'll look something like this:

 


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes


I love peanut butter.  I really do.  In fact most North Americans love it, but the British - well let's just say they've got mixed feelings about it.  I'll eat anything with peanut butter in it. Granola bars, sandwiches, ice cream, cookies, soups, noodles, chicken satay, anything - I love it all.  For me, peanut butter and chocolate is the ultimate combination, but this isn't the case for a lot of my friends in the UK.  Upon moving here I discovered that peanut butter is more commonly associated with savoury dishes such as Pad Thai, and not with sweet things like it is in North America.  About a year ago I remember trying to convince a friend to try one of my peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes, but they wouldn't even try one because they found the flavour combination far to strange and repulsive.  Well - if anyone reading this finds peanut butter and chocolate a repulsive combination (and if you weren't already turned off by my previous post) I'm warning you - STOP reading this right now. There. I've warned you.

To show you how crazy Americans are about peanut butter, I took the first picture below at a Target store in Texas.  The second picture is of the peanut butter selection in a UK Tesco store. In America it's all about variety.  I've found that American companies don't usually remove items from their product lines, instead they'll just add to them.  In the UK they're more likely to remove a product and replace it with another one.  Unless that product is tea. If it's tea, they'll just go ahead and add another 10 flavours to the product line. 

American peanut butter selection: Smooth, crunchy, extra crunchy, honey roasted, reduced fat, natural, organic, omega 3, peanut butter & jam swirl, peanut butter & white chocolate, peanut butter & dark chocolate and peanut butter & banana.
  
UK peanut butter selection:  Smooth & crunchy.  If your lucky you'll find natural, and maybe even organic. The store pictured above is a big one, so it stocks all varieties.  Chocolate and hazelnut spreads are more popular here.


When I lived in Canada Reese's Peanut Butter Cups were my favourite chocolate bar (even though they're not really a chocolate bar at all).  Every time I passed the candy section of a store here in the UK I'd be on the look out for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  My search went on for over a year without any luck, so I just figured they weren't available.  I was pleased to discover that I was wrong, and that they did actually exist.  I was just looking in the wrong place.  Well - actually I think I was looking in the right place, but some strange person in charge of super market planning decided to put them in the wrong place!  For some reason Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are kept in the cookie (biscuit) aisle at the grocery store.  Why?  I have no idea! These are not cookies.  I mean really? Who thinks they're cookies?  Thankfully, my mind is now at ease knowing that I am able to indulge in a peanut butter cup whenever I want, and I no longer have to wait until I go back home to stock up on them.  I've even found a local shop that stocks Reese's Pieces.  I doubt I'll ever find one of my favourite North American cereals here in the UK though - Reese's Peanut Butter Cup cereal.  Yes, that's right!  North Americans put their candy bars in cereal form.  There's no better way to start the day!  Good thing I still have a box of Reese's cereal from my last trip to the US.  And look at the top right corner, the box even says it's good for you!  "Nutritional Highlights" - it's got vitamins and everything!  Ha!  Yeah right...
 

I was so ecstatic about my recent peanut butter cup discovery that they inspired my next cupcake.  A Reese's Peanut Butter Cup cupcake!  A rich chocolate cupcake with fluffy whipped peanut butter frosting and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup tucked inside.  Delicious!  I had originally intended on making these cupcakes for July's Iron Cupcake London competition, but it was cancelled.  Luckily one of my fellow Iron Cupcake bakers decided that it would be nice to have a cupcake get together anyway.  Due to some last minute cancellations it was a small gathering, but very enjoyable none the less.  Kelly made some delicious coconut cupcakes that were dipped in pink and milk chocolate, Gem made some really good snickers cupcakes topped with rocky road, and Tamara made some yummy lemon and lime cupcakes.   I had a really nice time chatting about cupcakes with the girls, and at the end of the night we all swapped cupcakes.  We each went home with a nice selection, and since I was on the verge of a cupcake overdose I brought them all into work with me the next day where they were quickly gobbled up with rave reviews.   

Below are my Reese's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup cupcakes.  I topped them off with peanut butter frosting and a chocolate peanut butter crunch. These are probably one of my favourite cupcakes, and they're so easy to make.  
 

 Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

1 1/8 cups (255g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (55g) Cocoa
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (100g) granulated white sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) milk, plus2 tbs milk
1/4 cup warm water
2 tbs brewed coffee
1/2 cup (125ml) melted butter
12 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (not the mini ones)

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC)
2.  Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners, and place a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup in the bottom of each paper liner.
3. In one bowl sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, brown sugar, and white sugar. Then whisk in the milk, coffee, and melted butter.
5. Add in the dry ingredients until well mixed.
6.Divide the batter evenly among 12 cupcake molds. Fill about three-quarters full.
7. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle of the cupcakes comes out clean.

For the frosting simply whip in some smooth (not natural) peanut butter into your regular buttercream icing and pipe on top of your cooled cupcakes.  The result is a moist and delicious chocolate cupcake with a peanut butter surprise at the bottom and a nice creamy peanut butter frosting on top.

 

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