Blueberry Cake

When I was younger I used to go out in the forest and pick wild blueberries with my parents. We would freeze some of them so that we had blueberries throughout the winter. Yummy! When I moved to London I was really surprised to see that I couldn’t buy wild blueberries in the supermarket. I could only get those huge blue things with a whitish flesh which don’t really taste much at all, certainly not of blueberries. This is why I was so happy last week when I realised they sold wild blueberries at Whole Foods Market here in New York. I bought a box and had them with yogurt and oats for breakfast throughout the week. As the weekend approached I wanted to make something special with blueberries, I browsed my recipes and settled on this fabulous cake from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (of course!). Imagine my disappointment when I went back to Whole Foods and they didn’t have any more wild blueberries! I had to settle for the boring kind, but the cake still turned out really good. I just can’t help to think how amazing it would have been with proper blueberries! I don’t really have any comments on this recipe besides how good this cake is! I made it a week ago and I finished the last piece yesterday, a little dry now but still good. The recipe calls for a 25 cm ring mould but I only had a 24 cm. I didn’t think that would make much difference, but I had so much batter I ended up with TWO cakes and two cupcakes! I think making half is sufficient if you only want one cake, but why not just freeze one? It can be frozen unfrosted and will probably keep for three months.

So, try to get your hands on some wild blueberries before it’s too late and make this cake, which not only tastes great but looks very pretty too!

Recipe (makes 2 cakes)

350 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

350 g caster sugar

6 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

450 g plain flour

2 tbsp + 2 tsp baking powder

280 ml soured cream

250 g fresh blueberries, plus extra to decorate

Cream cheese frosting (recipe follows)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F). Grease and dust a 25 cm ring mould.
  2. Mix sugar and butter and cream until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time while mixing well, be sure to scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl.
  4. Beat in the vanilla extract, flour and baking powder until well mixed.
  5. Add the soured cream and mix well until everything is combined and the mixture is light and fluffy (at this point the batter was so delicious I ate about 2 tbsp right there and then).
  6. Gently stir in the blueberries by hand until evenly dispersed.
  7. Pour the mixture into the ring mould (about ¾ full) and smooth over with a palette knife or a spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, until golden brown.
  8. Leave the cake to cool slightly in the mould before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. When the cake is cold, cover the top and sides with Cream Cheese Frosting and decorate with more blueberries. A light dusting of icing sugar also looks nice on the blueberries.

Cream Cheese Frosting (for 12 cupcakes, or 1 cake)

300 g icing sugar, sifted

50 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

125 g cream cheese, cold

Directions:

  1. Beat the icing sugar and butter on medium- slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
  2. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated.
  3. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. It can become runny, so do not overbeat.

Source: the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

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Fennel, Tomato and Garlic Gratin

On my first trip to the cinema here in New York I saw “Julie & Julia“. Since this film is about food and blogging I thought it would be right up my alley, and it was! I remember when I was in Paris this June I was also looking for a French cookbook in English, but I didn’t have any trouble finding one (unlike Julia Child). I picked up a copy of “a little taste of… france” which has some classic French recipes, including Boeuf bourguignon, one of the dishes prepared in the film. As I watched the film I realised that I have only tried one recipe from this book, so I decided it was time to get back into the kitchen. My roommate, Brittany, is a semi-vegetarian (she eats chicken and fish) so I decided to pick a vegetarian recipe. I had today off from school so I had some time on my hands to get fresh ingredients. I went down to the Chelsea market, recommended by my Time Out New York book. I have to admit I wasn’t very impressed by the market. I have visited some amazing markets around Europe (I think my favourite so far is the market in Valencia, Spain) and the Chelsea market just didn’t compare to the standards I have seen before. But I did find everything I was looking for, although it was a little too expensive for my student wallet. Next time I will try the Union Square market which I have heard is really good on Wednesdays.

Back to the recipe… I haven’t cooked much with fennel before, but when I have it has always been in some kind of fish and tomato soup. I love the smell of fennel and I quite like to eat it raw as well. I really love garlic a lot so I always add more than the recipe calls for, in this one too. I have left the recipe as is, so you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to add extra garlic. I didn’t encounter any problems making this recipe, but I have a few recommendations on how to make it easier for you. Firstly, the recipe says to boil the tomatoes for 20 seconds before skinning them. I would recommend 30-40 seconds as I struggled trying to get the skin off my first few tomatoes. Secondly, I would make sure to use day-old bread. I used really fresh bread and it was very difficult to make the crumbs.

I have to say that I was very pleased with how this turned out. The taste was amazing! I didn’t expect the lemon flavour to come through as well as it did and the crispiness of the crumb topping worked really well with the soft tomatoes. I put half the batch in the freezer and I am already looking forward to defrosting and reheating it one day in the not so distant future. This is also a fairly healthy meal, with at least two portions of your daily serving of vegetables. Olive oil contains healthy fats and the parmesan adds calcium to the dish, but if you are worried about calories I would just cut down a little on both of those ingredients. I served this with a side of chicken, but I think a white fish like sea-bass would be really good with this too. Next time I will try adding some herbs, basil or thyme are always good with tomato. I highly recommend this recipe I and hope you will try to make it!

Recipe (serves 4)

I kg fennel bulbs

500 g tomatoes

80 ml olive oil

1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Gratin topping:

60 g white bread, broken into crumbs

65 g grated Parmesan cheese

2 tsp grated lemon zest

1 garlic clove, crushed

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Cut the fennel in half lengthways and slice thinly.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes until softened but not browned.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes.
  4. Add the fennel and cook, stirring frequently for 7 minutes until softened and lightly golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile, score a cross in the top of each tomato, plunge into boiling water for 20 (30-40) seconds, then peel the skin away from the cross. Chop roughly and add to the fennel. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until the tomato is softened. Season to taste.
  6. To make the gratin topping, mix together all the ingredients (if I had a working food processor I would probably just throw all the ingredients in together and chop), sprinkle over the vegetables and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately.

Source: a little taste of… france

Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

I am finally here in the Big Apple! My first week here has been fun, exciting, exhausting and wonderful. I have settled nicely into my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen and I am now getting ready to start studying again. I have filled up my pantry with most of the basic utensils and ingredients that I need for cooking and baking so I am now ready to get back into the kitchen. The first thing I made here in NYC was these amazing cupcakes from the always delicious Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. This is the third recipe I tried from this book and it hasn’t failed yet! When I made the Vanilla Cupcakes and the Marshmallow Cupcakes, the two recipes were almost identical. This recipe was different from them and incorporated more ingredients. And oh, so yummy they were! Definitely my favourite cupcakes to date. I was so lucky to be invited to a roof-top BBQ this weekend and we were all asked to bring some food. My sister and a good friend of hers were visiting me this week so I let them decide what we should bring. As they both love cupcakes they decided on Carrot Cupcakes and these Banana Chocolate Cupcakes. Stay tuned for a post about the Carrot Cupcakes. They were such a hit at the party! One girl even gave me a hug and told me she would be my first customer! I was really happy everyone loved them because I need someone here to cook for. As you probably now, I am studying to become a Dietician so I cannot really advice people to eat an entire batch of these cupcakes (although it would be really easy to do so), so invite some friends over for cupcakes or bring them into work with you!

Oh no, I got some frosting on my finger carrying the cupcakes to the party… too bad 😉

My first week here in NYC I have tried a lot of different food. There are two things I have noticed about food in New York; Portion sizes are HUGE, and there is always a healthy option. I think I have yet to finish and entire meal here and I think this offers some explanation as to why there are so many overweight and obese people here in the US. I am always surprised when I visit NYC that I don’t see more fat people. However, this week I went to Coney Island with my sister and her friend, and I discovered where all of them are. I mean, Come on People! Don’t feed your one-year old Pepsi and fried chicken. I thought that was common sense! But anyway, I have had so many other experiences with food this week that it would take too long to cover all of them. I have found an amazing deli right by the NYU campus with a really good salad bar and different soups, I have a feeling I will be going there a lot. I have had a really cheap but very good slice of pizza from a corner outside my building at 3 AM coming home from a club. I have tried frozen yogurt from Pinkberry in SoHo for the first time. That was so good, and a healthier option to ice cream.

I made a couple amendments to this recipe, one of which is reflected below. Firstly, I did not use the ground ginger as I didn’t have any on hand but I’m sure it would be really good so you should try it. Secondly I decided to add some chocolate chips, I think that really took these cupcakes over the top! The original recipe also calls for whole milk, but I find that if I get whole milk for baking I can never finish the bottle, so I just use whatever milk I have on hand (usually 1 or 2% fat).

Stay tuned for more posts about my experiences with food and cooking here in NYC, in the meantime enjoy these little portions of deliciousness!

Recipe (makes 12 cupcakes)

120 g plain flour

140 g caster sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

a pinch of salt

80 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

120 ml semi-skimmed milk

2 eggs

120 g peeled banana, mashed

50 g roughly chopped 70% chocolate (I used Green & Black’s)

1 quantity chocolate frosting (recipe follows)

Some dark chocolate shavings

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F). Line a 12-hole cupcake tray with paper cases.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and butter until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Use a handheld electric mixer or a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment.
  3. Slowly add the milk to the mixture, mixing until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  4. Add the eggs and mix well, making sure to scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a spatula.
  5. Stir in the mashed banana by hand until evenly dispersed.
  6. Fill the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake for about 20 minutes. The cupcakes should be light golden and the sponge should bounce back when touched. Cool slightly in the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the Chocolate Frosting on top and finish with the chocolate shavings.

Chocolate Frosting recipe

300 g icing / powdered sugar, sifted

100 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

40 g cocoa powder, sifted

40 ml semi-skimmed milk

  1. Beat the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder together on a medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well-mixed.
  2. Turn the mixer down to slow and add the milk a couple of tablespoons at a time.
  3. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed.
  4. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. The longer you beat the frosting, the lighter and fluffier it becomes.

Source: Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.

Zebra Cake

One of my good friends was celebrating his birthday this week in London, so as always I offered to make a cake. For his actual birthday I made a strawberry cheese cake which was good, but not great. When it came to the actual birthday party I decided to make something that looked fun. I had wanted to try something from Annie’s Eats for some time now. That is definitely one of my favourite food blogs and her cakes look amazing. Since this was my second cake of the week I opted for one that looked pretty quick and simple to make, but would still require some attention. The Zebra cake looked absolutely amazing in her pictures; I think she had a better outcome than me. But I am still quite happy with what I managed to make. I followed the recipe as best I could although I didn’t have any almond or vanilla extract. I just omitted the almond altogether and substituted vanilla extract for vanilla sugar.

I want to point out that I found it to be very important to use big tablespoons when measuring out the batter. Preferably use proper measuring spoons, if you add too little batter at a time, you will end up with too many rings and when cooked just a light brown cake instead of white and dark brown. I had to make the cake twice to end up with a proper zebra striped cake. I took Annie’s advice and frosted with a thick layer of Hershey’s perfectly chocolate frosting. In the end, after two attempts, the cake ended up just as I thought it would! It looked amazing and was very moist and tasty. And what’s more, my boyfriend did the decorating for me J I think he did a very good job, don’t you?

As you can see from this picture the top of the cake cracked quite significantly. I didn’t mind though, once I had frosted the cake it didn’t look so bad. My boyfriend used regular store-bought icing tubes to make the stars and the writing. My hand writing is really awful so the cake would never have looked this good if I had decorated it myself!

I was pretty happy with my stripes, but they do not compare to Annie’s! I have no idea how she got her cake to look so good…

Recipe (serves 12)

4 large eggs

2.5 dl sugar

2.5 dl milk

2.5 dl vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract (or 2 tsp vanilla sugar)

1/8 tsp almond extract (this can be omitted)

5 dl all-purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

2 ½ tbsp cocoa powder (I used a little more, about 3 ½ tbsp)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 23 cm round cake pan with a circle of baking paper. Lightly grease the sides of the pan and dust with flour.

  1. Mix eggs and sugar until light and creamy and the sugar is mostly dissolved.
  2. Stir in milk, oil, vanilla and almond extracts. If you use vanilla sugar this should be added in step 3.
  3. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and whisk to combine.
  5. Measure out half the mixture, about 6-7 dl.
  6. Sift cocoa powder over one of the bowls and stir to combine.
  7. Put three tablespoons of the white batter into the centre of the pan and let it spread. Add three tablespoons of the brown batter in the centre of the white batter. Continue like this until you have used all the batter and you have some nice alternating brown and white circles.
  8. Bake for 38-42 minutes (my cake took a little longer, about 45 minutes) until the cake is light gold and a tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  9. Chill for 15 minutes in the pan, then move it onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
  10. Frost if desired. I made one portion of Hershey’s perfectly chocolate frosting, which turned out to be way too much. 2/3 of the recipe would probably be sufficient for this cake.

Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Baking Bites

Vafler – Norwegian Waffles

vaffel

With this post I am saying goodbye to Norway for a while. After a short trip to London I will be heading to New York to start my master degree in Nutrition and Dietetics 🙂 These waffles are so good, and totally different from Belgian waffles. They are less sweet and the batter is very runny. And look at the shape! Each waffle is shaped into smaller heart pieces, usually four or five per waffle. Traditional Norwegian waffles are usually eaten on special occations, and can even be made into a cake by stacking several on top of each other with some kind of filling in between. Normally though, the waffles are simply served with jam or Norwegian “brown cheese” when your friends or family come over. These may look very simple, but sometimes there’s nothing more delicious than a warm waffle with jam and a dollop of sour cream. When I was younger my parents often took me out cross-country skiing in the woods around Oslo or at our cabin in the mountains. Around the more popular skiing areas, little cabins will sell hot cocoa, buns and waffles. After a 20 km trip in -10C nothing beats a huge warm waffle with loads of jam and sour cream! So, imagine yourself on the top of a snow covered mountain in Norway, and serve these with coffee tonight.

Recipe (about 5 waffles)

2 dl plain flour

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cardamom

3 dl milk or butter milk

2 eggs

2 tbsp melted butter

Directions:

1) Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamom.

2) Add half the milk and stir until there are no lumps.

3) Add the rest of the milk, whisked eggs and the melted butter. Stir.

4) Let the batter rest for at least 15 minutes before cooking.

5) Cook the waffles in a Norwegian waffle iron, until golden brown. Serve immediately with your choice of topping.

Source: Fra boller til burritos (Norwegian cookbook)

Marshmallow Cupcakes

Marshmallow cupcake

These cupcakes were the second recipe I tried from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. My sister just had her final presentation for this semester and as a reward she got to choose what she wanted for dinner and dessert. She chose a very healthy dinner of tuna steak with black beans, so she thought she could go a bit over the top with the dessert. I had very high hopes for this recipe because they looked so good in the picture.  The basic recipe for the sponge and the frosting is the same as for the Vanilla Cucpakes which made them really easy to make.

Marshmallow cupcakes I thought these cupcakes looked amazing, very girlie. I also really liked the taste, but I would have preferred less marshmallows in them. I suggest using only 100 gr minimarshmallows in the frosting instead of 200 gr. Other than that, it was a little messy to work with melted marshmallows but it was worth it in the end. I forgot to decorate the cupcakes with edible glitter, even though I had some really cute pink glitter lying around. Well, maybe next time!

Recipe (makes 12 cupcakes)

1 quantity Vanilla Cupcakes

1 quantity Vanilla frosting

12 medium pink marshmallows

200 gr (or less) mini marshmallows

edible glitter, to decorate

Directions:

1) Make the cupcakes and the frosting as according to the recipe for the Vanilla Cupcakes.

2) After the cupcakes have chilled melt the pink marshmallows in a heat proof bowl over simmering water, until smooth.

3) Hollow out a small section in the centre of each cupcake and fill with a dollop of melted marshmallow. Leave to  cool.

4) Stir the mini marshmallows into the Vanilla Frosting until evenly dispersed.

5) Spoon the frosting on top of the cupcakes and decorate with edible glitter.

Source: the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla cupcakes

I first stumbled upon the Hummingbird bakery by chance. I was out walking one evening with a friend in London’s Portobello Road when we saw the most amazing-looking cupcakes in a shop window. We immediately walked in and bought a cupcake each. They were even better than they looked! And what’s more, it turns out we showed up right before closing time so be both got to take home as many cupcakes as we wanted…totally FREE!

Un-frosted cupcakesI have not been back to the Hummingbird bakery since, but I have dreamt of going back. For my 24th birthday a few weeks ago I got a really surprising gift; the Hummingbird bakery cookbook. It has the most incredible cakes and of course cupcakes, I knew what I had to try first. This recipe is for the classic Hummingbird vanilla cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream frosting. I have never been a big fan of buttercream, but this recipe was really good. My boyfriend, who doesn’t really like cakes, even licked the bowl clean! I shared this batch with some friends and my sister, we all thought they were absolutely fantastic. I can’t wait to try more recipes from the book!

Recipe (makes 12 cupcakes)

For the sponge

120 g plain flour

140 g caster sugar

1.5 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

40 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

120 ml whole milk

1 egg

0.25 tsp vanilla extract

For the vanilla frosting

250 g icing sugar, sifted

80 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

25 ml whole milk

a couple of drops of vanilla extract

a couple of drops of food colouring (optional)

edible sprinkles

Directions

  1. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter with a mixer on low speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  2. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.
  3. Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and mix until the mixture is smooth, careful not to overmix.
  4. Spoon the mixture into paper cases until two-thirds full and bake on 170 C for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. When the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Beat the icing sugar and butter together in medium-low speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
  6. Combine the milk and vanilla extract (and food colouring if using) in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time.
  7. Once all the milk has been incorporated , turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 mintues.
  8. Frost the cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles.

Source: The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook