Party Inspiration – Cookies and Milk

So we have decided this year to NOT throw a birthday party for my soon to be 4-year-old, because he wants a slightly more expensive birthday present (A red Ferrari sports car to be exact, I think we may have to settle on a go-cart). I’ll be honest, its got me feeling like a pretty terrible mum, because If you are anything like me, you slightly obsess over children’s birthdays party. Well any party’s really. The creative side comes out and I spend months trolling the internet for ideas and ways to be original. I LOVE IT! It’s my side hobby. My bestie and I always say one day we will focus on it full-time and make it a career. I love to creative unique idea’s and I hate the stereotypical “Disney cartoon” themes, with cartoon characters plastered all over plates, though I did cave once my putting barney toppers on my sons 2nd birthday cakes.

Anyway the “not having a party” thing got me thinking of all the parties I’ve gone to and the ones that ive done so I thought I’d share some creative inspiration on parties gone by.

The first was my youngest 2nd birthday. He’s a tough one. He’s not really into any cartoon themes, nor does he have a favourite colour (yet), or a preferred teddy. The one thing he does obsess about however are biscuits (cookies for the folks over in the USA). As in completely and utterly obsessed. He cries for them when he wakes up, if he sees someone drinking tea he wants them, he wants to “dip dip” into the tea. Naturally, that was the selected theme. “Cookies and Milk”. I love it because the theme here in South Africa is not common, yet.

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Using blue and brown for the colour combinations I found some brown striped paper that I used as the base for decoration. We had chocolate and strawberry milk as well as milkshakes available and I went crazy with the cookie themed food.

First the cake – It was the idea around my whole party and I wanted it to be the “pièce de résistance”.

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It was one giant layered chocolate chip cookie with cream cheese icing. Super sweet and way to much to eat a huge slice, but it was one of those cakes I kept going back in for another spoon. If I made it again I would probably try to make it a little more “cakier”, but it was exactly what I wanted, a giant cookie. I found the recipe here.

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Additional desserts included Mini Oreo cheesecakes, and choc-chip cookie dough cupcakes which you can find on recipe girls site here. In hindsight I would change the icing on that recipe, I know it was meant to be “cookie dough” but I found the brown sugar to be too grainy, I prefer a smooth icing.

I made batches of mini cookies up and filled jars around the table with them as well as put some in the give away bags. For an activity the kids are at the perfect age to roll out and make their own sugar cookies and I had some pre made for them to ice as well.

It is such a fun theme and the possibilities are endless, I really wish I could do it over. The one thing I wanted to do, but I just ran out of time, was to give away glass jars filled with a layered cookie mix to take and bake at home. Maybe you could use that idea?

I’d love to hear some of your favourite party themes. Happy planning xx PS I know my photos aren’t professional 🙂

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Crazy for Cinnamon Rolls …

Cinnamon Rolls have to be one of my all-time favourite treats. Honestly, it’s one of those foods that I have no “stop button” for; I can literally eat one after the next, after the next. My Obsession for them started when I lived in the States in 2004, I went through a period of withdrawal until “Cinnabon” opened up its doors in South Africa. It was only on going back to the states recently did I actually realise how SIMPLE they were to make at home, and how utterly delicious they make your kitchen smell! A little bit of prep is required, slip on your favourite stilettos and you’ll feel like an instant Nigella! Seriously, if you live in an apartment complex ALL of your neighbours will come visit 🙂

 

 

 

You’ll notice most of my recipes I blog about are generally Sweet Treats/ Desserts. This is because when I cook I generally never measure anything or write down etc. Baking however, proves to be more of an exact art. Enjoy the recipe, I hope you love them as much as I do 🙂

 

Dough:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Filling:

  • 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Glaze:

  • Around ½ cup cream cheese, room temperature (114grams)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

 

For dough:
Combine milk and butter in glass bowl. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 1 cup of the flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 2 1/2 cups flour. Mix until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonful’s until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky. Form into ball.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

 

For filling:
Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl.

Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. Cut dough at an angle with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices

Spray two 9-inch square glass baking dishes with nonstick spray. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 180 Degrees Celsius. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.

For glaze:
Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

If these dont fill your entire body with a deliciously divine sensation… then there is no hope 🙂  They are Dii-freakin-vine, and play a round a bit, they are super yummy with Pecan Nuts too!

Raspberry Tarlets – helping me cure my berry addiction

Best Raspberry Tartlet Recipe

There’s something about summer and berries that goes hand in hand. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, im addicted!

I love the “quintessential” look to tartlets. They are so easy to make and the reward is HUGE! Tarlets can make any amateur chef feel like a professional!
Sweet shortcrust pastry
2¼ cups plain flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
125g unsalted butter, softened
2 x large eggs eggs

3-4 punnets fresh raspberries

1. For sweet shortcrust pastry, combine flour and icing sugar in food processor, process to combine. Add butter and process to fine crumbly texture. Add eggs and process until pastry comes together. Knead lightly on floured surface until base is smooth, pat the top to flatten slightly then wrap in baking paper and refrigerate 20 minutes or until firm enough to roll out.
2. Preheat oven to 200°C (180°C fan forced).

3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface, use pastry to line base and sides of 6-9 medium sized tartlet pans (I use the ones with removable bottoms) OR you can use a 3cm deep, 24cm loose-based tart tin. Trim off any excess pastry, prick the base all over with a fork, then refrigerate for 10 minutes.

4. Place sheet of baking paper over the pastry and three-quarters fill with raw rice or beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes or until edges are light golden. Remove paper and rice and bake further 10 minutes or until base is dry and pastry golden. Set aside to cool in tins. Transfer pastry cases to serving platter.

Creme patissiere is the smooth custard filling for fruit tarts. It is quite easy to make and you should get a really smooth custard with this method. I really like to play around and for an added touch of “exoticness” sometimes I use half milk, half coconut milk to add a zing!

Ingredients

• 2 egg yolks

• 50g castor sugar

• 25g plain four

• 1 1/4 cups milk (full cream) – feel free to play with coconut milk too!

• A Vanilla Pod

• In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar

1. Gradually beat in the flour with just one tablespoon of the milk.

2. Place the rest of the milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan, Cut Vanilla Pod in half and scrape out seeds. Bring this infusion to boil and remove Pod.

3. Whisk this into the egg mixture in a slow stream – ensuring that you whisk continuously so as it does not go lumpy. (by using a balloon whisk you should have no problems with this)

4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and place back on the heat. Continue to whisk until boiling (just a few seconds ) then remove from heat and continue whisking and cooking for 2 – 3 minutes.

Allow to cool.

Pour into a dish and keep in a refrigerator until you are ready to fill your pastry shells.

Allow shells to cool, feel with creamy yummy-ness and top with raspberries and icing sugar! Best served outside, in a garden, lying down, on a picinic blanket 🙂 yummmmy I LOVE summer x

Christmas and Summer Desserts…

I cannot believe its nearly Christmas… I have T minus 3 days left at work! I cant Wait! Seriously behind on the Christmas shopping, have lots of little things but still need two main gifts for my family… Where do you start??

On Friday we fly to Cape Town for 4 days of utter RELAXATION! NOT THINKING ABOUT WORK! Enjoying the beautiful scenery, walking on beaches and just spending quality time, (hopefully I’ll spot a couple of sharks). This body needs to catch up on a whole year of summer so the weather better play along !

Then its off to the Beautiful Botswana to spend some quality time with my closest Friends and Family. I don’t know what it is about Botswana but I am always so so excited to go back! The heat, the bush, quality relationships… It’s the simple things.Rounding off the holidays is a trip to the incredible Chobe National Park. Two of my favourite places in the world are the Okavango Delta (probably one of the most majestic places ever) and Chobe National Park. Chobe is in the North of Botswana and Borders Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. Never short of activities you can even take day trips to the Victoria Falls!! ( I will most certainly Blog about this trip)

Holidays, whether you Celebrate Christmas or not. It’s a time to always spend with Friends and Family, get togethers and beautiful memories. Of course with that comes Food 🙂 Lots and Lots of food… This year there will only be 4 of us at the Christmas Table (And my brother is a strict Vegan) but trust me we will still have the whole “shebang” and probably end up cooking for 10!

So here are my two recipes for the festive season (Trust me in the last 2 weeks I have made these desserts 4 times!!!)

Strawberries-and-Cream-Cheesecake 

Recipe:

(Cake Days by The Hummingbird Bakery – Possibly the best baking book ever)

For the base:

220 g ground biscuits (tennis/ marie)

100g butter, melted

For the filling:

200gr fresh strawberries (chopped)

180gr castor sugar

600gr Cream Cheese

2 eggs

Place the strawberries in a saucepan with 80gr of the sugar and 30ml of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until the strawberries are soft and the liquid has reduced by half. Set aside until completely cold.

Preheat the oven to 160℃. Prepare the filling by beating together the CREAM CHEESE and the remaining sugar on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time. Pour in the cooked strawberries (plus the syrup!) and stir in by hand.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for ca. 45mins. Allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature still in the tin, then place in the fridge to chill and set for 1-2 hours.

For the topping:

100gr mascarpone

20gr icing sugar

100ml double cream

Beat the mascarpone and icing sugar on a medium speed until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the double cream until soft peaks form. Then fold the double cream into the mascarpone mixture. BE VERY CAREFUL HERE, YOU CAN OVERBEAT IT VERY EASILY.

Spread on top of the cheesecake and chill again for 1 hour. Decorate cheesecake with fresh strawberries.

BEST CHEESECAKE YOU WILL EVER TASTE (THAT’S A PROMISE)

AND PERFECT FOR A SUMMER DAY …. PAVLOVA!

3 egg whites

175g sugar

1 tsp cornflour

½ tsp vanilla essence

½ tsp white vinegar

  1. Preheat the oven to 130 Degrees C and place the rack in middle of the oven. Line a baking tray with foil and draw a 7 inch circle on the foil OR just use a pie/ flan dish.
  2. In a clean, medium-sized glass bowl, beat the egg whites with a clean electric mixer on medium speed. Beat until the whites form soft peaks.
  3. Gently sprinkle the sugar into the egg whites, one teaspoon at a time. Returning egg white mixture to the same stiffness each time. Beat and Beat and Beat (the more you beat the better 🙂 ) Your egg whites should now be glossy stiff peaks.
  4. Sprinkle the cornstarch and vinegar on the meringue and fold in gently with a plastic spatula. Add the vanilla and gently fold the mixture again.
  5. Spread the meringue in the container. Make sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher then the centre so you have a very slight well in the middle.
  6. Bake the meringue for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until it goes a very pale, pinkish colour.
  7. Turn the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar to let the meringue cool completely. As the meringue cools, it will crack slightly.
  8. Whip the cream. Prepare the fruit by washing and slicing. (Two options: a beautiful combination of strawberries, bannanas and kiwis OR a berry Pavlova (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries etc)
  9. Gently spread the cream to the top of the meringue with a spatula and arrange the fruit on top. Either Serve immediately or cool in the fridge a bit 🙂

 

Remember as well that it is definitely the season for giving! Even the smallest act of kindness can have a HUGE impact on anothers life, from a simple item of clothing to a soccer ball. Show your kindness to others by giving.

Happy Happy Holidays to all! To my family spread around the world, I love and miss you all so so much, Holidays are never the same without you x