Birthday

booth revolution
How often can you get lots of people that you love in one room? Not often, I tell you. Not often at all.

With my next birthday approaching and no wedding or funeral on the horizon, I decided to throw a very glittery birthday party to get my nearest and dearest surrounded by fun, noms, and each other’s greatness.

We decorated…
…with packs of 16-inch metallic confetti balloons and 34-inch giant gold numbers from Bubblegum Balloons (the latter of which are still floating strong). Because the main room we held the party in has quite low ceilings and LED spotlights, we chose not to secure them but them them float just above people’s heads like confetti-filled clouds. The numbers, however, were held down with Bubblegum’s adorable little weights.

The majority of other supplies were all from Partyrama and their party superstore; the inflatable beer pong trophy, clear beer pong cups, gold and silver cups, gold and silver serving trays, table confetti, printed gold napkins, et al. It’s all in the details.

We ate…
cake pops to amuse the bouche and the incredible 10-inchers from Pizza Loco and their mobile pizza train. As well as being an insane visual addition to the party, the train delivered specialist pizzas as fresh as they come; the Magic Mushroom (chestnut and field mushrooms, oven roasted garlic, cheddar and mozzarella sprinkled with Parmesan and truffle oil), the French Melt (mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, French Brie or Camembert, and rocket), and the Analucian (mozzarella and Manchego cheese, spicy chorizo, and mixed marinated olives).

We posed…
…for hours upon hours in the ingenious Booth Revolution photo booth. With ex-policeman Nigel manning the booth (and ever so kindly catching flyaway beer pong balls for us), the four-person booth became Party Central.

And often filled with more than four people.

Though Booth Revolution have deluxe-sized booths, the ‘classic’ option was party perfect and came with three hours hire time, the lovely Nigel (though I’m sure he doesn’t come with every party), a props box, backdrop, unlimited instant 6 x 4” prints, a password protected online gallery, unlimited downloads (6 x 4” size), a disc of all the images, and full set up and break down.

We drank…
…and drank and drank. Beer pong, a magnum of Prosecco, and an emptied bar cart on top of my generous (and loose) punch pouring makes for happy faces all ’round.

We listened…
To this month’s party playlist on Spotify, obvs.

birthday party
birthday party
birthday party pizza loco
booth revolution
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Easy Cake Pops Recipe (The Easy-Peasiest)

easy cake pops recipe
Without a doubt, the most well-received entity to come out of the kitchen over the past year has been these little suckers: behold, ‘please give me the recipe!’ cake pops.

In preparation for my birthday party (more on that tomorrow), the Manfriend’s mum and I trialled a fair share of cake pop recipes, selected our favourites, and combined the most foolproof and delicious results to create this very easy cake pops recipe.

The final three variations were red velvet cake with white chocolate (and sprinkles!), vanilla cake with milk chocolate (and edible glitter!), and lemon cake with dark chocolate (and desicctaed coconut!), though the recipe will allow you to make any flavour combination of your choice.

Ingredients:
– A cake (each cake makes roughly 12 cake pops – I chose to make three cakes as I wanted a variety of options for the party guests to choose from)
– A tub of icing (you can use fresh if you have the patience, but Betty Crocker icing is a fantastic alternative)
– Cake pop toppings (I chose edible glitter, coconut, and sprinkles)
– A large ‘family sized’ bar of chocolate (I chose three so each cake had a different ‘coat’)
– Lollipop sticks
– A styrofoam block or something similar

Directions:
1. Make your cake! I did this one day in advance as I had three to knock out, but if you are making this on the day just ensure you have left one hour for the cake to completely cool.
2. Blend your cake for 10 seconds using a blender or food processor (it should all be milled, but not be too fine; photo guide, below).
3. Get out a sheet of greaseproof paper.
4. Put the blended cake into a large bowl and mix in a heaped spoonful of icing. Mix together until you reach a doughy consistency – adding more icing if needed – and roll into cake balls.
5. Put the cake balls on the greaseproof paper and refrigerate inside plastic containers for at least two hours.
6. Take the cake balls out of the fridge and place to the side while melting chocolate over the hob (best results come from placing in a heatproof bowl over a pot of boiling water).
7. Dip the end of your lollipop stick into the melted chocolate and stick that end into a cake ball. This helps secure the ball to the stick as you load weight (chocolate) onto it.
8. After a minute, coat your cake ball in chocolate – smoothing out with a spoon when required – and stick it into your styrofoam block.
9. As the chocolate dries, sprinkle your toppings on top of each cake pop so they attach securely.
10. Rinse and repeat until all cake pops are made!
11. Let the cake pops stand for one hour in a cool spot. Remove from the block and refrigerate in your container of choice until ready to serve.

easy cake pops recipe
easy cake pops recipe
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In Review: Afternoon Tea at The Lancaster, London

lancaster london afternoon tea
If you’ve been clicking around my blog for any longer than a week (thank you, superbabe!), you’ll know I love to pepper my work days with as much adventure as possible. Though I tend to work from dawn to dusk, I know I need to step away from the grind when schedules and clients allow.

When you’re in London, there’s no better escape than afternoon tea.

When a slot in Wednesday’s schedule opened up, I made a date with the Lancaster London‘s Ben Purton and his signature afternoon tea.

In August, Purton took over the hotel’s two restaurants (Island Grill and Nipa Thai), banqueting for up to 3,000 guests, room service, the Lounge Bar, and the Lounge Bar’s Afternoon Tea as Executive Chef.

All that and the man still manages to knock the scones – and then some – out of the park.

Kicking things off with a glass of Laurent Perrier, I decided to go for a pot of organic darjeeling (champagne of teas to follow the champagne of champagnes, naturally) while my tea buddy chose his favourite – a classic pot of English breakfast tea (a full-bodied version blended with three different Assam leaves).

While the tea timer did our dirty work, we began to plate up our savouries; a Lancaster London smoked salmon sandwich, an egg & wild cress sandwich, a cucumber sandwich, a wild mushroom, chicken and tarragon tartlet, and a roast beef-filled Yorkshire pudding with horseradish cream (the cake-taker, by far).

With excellent timing, our waitress then approached us to ask if we would like any more sandwiches (not with scones coming!) and if we were ready for our scones (YES, ALWAYS YES!). The warm plain and raisin carb clouds were then served to us with homemade strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream, making all our dreams come true.

Making a push for the sweets tier, I took small bites of everything to ensure no sugared stone went unturned. From favourite to could-still-be-a-favourite, the final plate featured white chocolate and raspberry lollipops, apple and honey cupcakes, lemon fruit tarts, caramel and hazelnut tranches, and passion fruit and raspberry macarons.

When a macaron comes ‘last’, you know you’re dealing with a pro.

lancaster london afternoon tea
lancaster london afternoon tea
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How To Make Cronuts, Officially

cronut recipe
Whether you call them cronuts, crodos, cro-doughs, dosants, or any other hybrid croissant and doughnut moniker, there is no way to deny the nom factor of these little cult pastries.

Unfortunately, their moreish nature has no effect on their availability. In London, brainy food spots like Duck & Waffle, Kooky Bakes and Rinkoff Bakery have all come up with ‘best of’ contenders, but are part of a small crowd with small batch capabilities.

If there was any time to DIY, this would be it. Thankfully, the King of Cronuts – Dominique Ansel of his eponymous bakery in New York – has shared his original recipe with us. Strap in, cronut lovers…this is a long rie.

Recipe: How To Make Cronuts

Servings: Over 8
Difficulty: Hard
Cook Time: Over two hours

Ingredients
For the pastry dough:
3 3/4 cups flour, plus more as needed for dusting
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons Instant yeast (preferably SAF Gold Label)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons cold water
1 large egg white
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (84% butterfat), softened
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Nonstick cooking spray as needed
For the butter block:
18 tablespoons unsalted butter (84% butterfat), softened
Grapeseed oil as needed
Glaze of your choice as needed
Decorating sugar of your choice as needed

Special equipment:
Stand mixer with dough hook and whisk attachments
Ruler
Large offset spatula
3 1/2-inch (9 cm) ring cutter
1 inch (2.5 cm) ring cutter
Deep-frying thermometer
2 uncut piping bags
Wilton #230 Bismarck metal tip or other Bismarck tube
Ateco #803 plain tip (5/16-inch/0.8 cm diameter)

Cooking Directions
Two Days Before
Make ganache: Prepare one of the ganache recipes below and refrigerate until needed.
Make pastry dough: Combine the bread flour, salt, sugar, yeast, water, egg whites, butter, and cream in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix until just combined, about 3 minutes. When finished the dough will be rough and have very little gluten development.

Lightly grease a medium bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the dough, to prevent a skin from forming. Proof the dough in a warm spot until doubled in size, 2 to 3 hours.

Remove the plastic wrap and punch down the dough by folding the edges into the centre, releasing as much of the gas as possible. On a piece of parchment paper, shape into a 10-inch (25 cm) square. Transfer to a sheet pan, still on the parchment paper, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

Make butter block: Draw a 7-inch (18 cm) square on a piece of parchment paper with a pencil. Flip the parchment over so that the butter won’t come in contact with the pencil marks. Place the butter in the centre of the square and spread it evenly with an offset spatula to fill the square. Refrigerate overnight.

One Day Before
Laminate: Remove the butter from the refrigerator. It should still be soft enough to bend slightly without cracking. If it is still too firm, lightly beat it with a
rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface until it becomes pliable. Make sure to press the butter back to its original 7-inch (18 cm) square after working it.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, making sure it is very cold throughout. Place the dough on a floured work surface. Using the rolling pin, roll out the dough to a 10-inch (25.5 cm) square about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Arrange the butter block in the center of the dough so it looks like a diamond in the centre of the square (rotated 45 degrees, with the corners of the butter block facing the center of the dough sides). Pull the corners of the dough up and over to the centre of the butter block. Pinch the seams of dough together to seal the butter inside. You should have a square slightly larger than the butter block.

Very lightly dust the work surface with flour to ensure the dough doesn’t stick. With a rolling pin, using steady, even pressure, roll out the dough from the center. When finished, you should have a 20-inch (50 cm) square about 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. (This is not the typical lamination technique and is unique to this recipe. When rolling out dough, you want to use as little flour as possible. The more flour you incorporate into the dough, the tougher it will be to roll out, and when you fry the At-Home Cronut pastries they will flake apart.)

Fold the dough in half horizontally, making sure to line up the edges so you are left with a rectangle. Then fold the dough vertically. You should have a 10-inch (25.5 cm) square of dough with 4 layers. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Repeat steps 3 and 4. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The Day Of
Cut dough: On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 15-inch (40 cm) square about 1/2-inch (1.3 cm) thick. Transfer the dough to a half sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour to relax.

Using a 3 1/2-inch (9 cm) ring cutter, cut 12 rounds. Cut out the center of each round with a 1-inch (2.5 cm) ring cutter to create the doughnut shape.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly dust the parchment with flour. Place the At-Home Cronut pastries on the pan, spacing them about 3 inches (8 cm) apart. Lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap with nonstick spray and lay it on top of the pastries. Proof in a warm spot until tripled in size, about 2 hours. (It’s best to proof At-Home Cronut pastries in a warm, humid place. But if the proofing area is too warm, the butter will melt, so do not place the pastries on top of the oven or near another direct source of heat.

Fry dough: Heat the grapeseed oil in a large pot until it reaches 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Use a deep-frying thermometer to verify that the oil is at the right temperature. (The temperature of the oil is very important to the frying process. If it is too low, the pastries will be greasy; too high, the inside will be undercooked while the outside is burnt.) Line a platter with several layers of paper towels for draining the pastries.

Gently place 3 or 4 of them at a time into the hot oil. Fry for about 90 seconds on each side, flipping once, until golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on the paper towels.
Check that the oil is at the right temperature. If not, let it heat up again before frying the next batch. Continue until all of them are fried. Let cool completely before filling.

Make glaze: Prepare the glaze below that corresponds to your choice of ganache.
Make flavoured sugar: Prepare the decorating sugar on page 208 that corresponds to your choice of ganache.

Assemble: Transfer the ganache to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Whip on high speed until the ganache holds a stiff peak. (If using the Champagne-chocolate ganache, simply whisk it until smooth. It will be quite thick already.)

Cut the tip of a piping bag to snugly fit the Bismarck tip. Using a rubber spatula, place 2 large scoops of ganache in a piping bag so that it is one-third full. Push the ganache down toward the tip of the bag.

Place the decorating sugar that corresponds to your choice of ganache and glaze in a bowl.
Arrange each At-Home Cronut pastry so that the flatter side is facing up. Inject the ganache through the top of the pastry in four different spots, evenly spaced. As you pipe the ganache, you should feel the pastry getting heavier in your hand.

Place the pastry on its side. Roll in the corresponding sugar, coating the outside edges.
If the glaze has cooled, microwave it for a few seconds to warm until soft. Cut the tip of a piping bag to snugly fit a #803 plain tip. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the glaze to the bag. Push the glaze down toward the tip of the bag.

Pipe a ring of glaze around the top of each At-Home Cronut pastry, making sure to cover all the holes created from the filling. Keep in mind that the glaze will continue to spread slightly as it cools. Let the glaze set for about 15 minutes before serving.

Serving instructions: Because the At-Home Cronut pastry is cream-filled, it must be served at room temperature.

Storage instructions: Consume within 8 hours of frying. Leftover ganache can be stored in a closed airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days. Leftover flavored sugar can keep in a closed airtight container for weeks and can be used to macerate fruits or sweeten drinks.

Ganaches

Vanilla Rose Ganache
1 gelatin sheet, 160 bloom (If you can’t find gelatin sheets, use powdered gelatin. One gelatin sheet = 1 scant teaspoon [2.3 grams] powdered gelatin. For every teaspoon of gelatin, bloom in 1 tablespoon [15 grams] water.)
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 Vanilla bean (preferably Tahitian), split lengthwise, seeds scraped
1/2 cup white chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoons rose water
Soak the gelatin sheet in a bowl of ice water until soft, about 20 minutes. If using powdered gelatin, sprinkle 1 teaspoon (2.3 grams) gelatin over 1 tablespoon (15 grams) water in a small bowl, stir, and let sit 20 minutes to bloom.
Combine the heavy cream and vanilla bean seeds in a small pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat.
If using a gelatin sheet, squeeze out any excess water. Whisk the bloomed gelatin into the cream until the gelatin is dissolved.
Place the white chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 30 seconds.
Whisk the white chocolate and hot cream until smooth. Add the rose water and whisk until fully blended. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the ganache, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight to set.

Whipped Lemon Ganache
2 gelatin sheets, 160 bloom (If you can’t find gelatin sheets, use powdered gelatin. One gelatin sheet = 1 scant teaspoon [2.3 grams] powdered gelatin. For every teaspoon of gelatin, bloom in 1 tablespoon [15 grams] water.)
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Grated zest from one lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup white chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Soak the gelatin sheets in a bowl of ice water until soft, about 20 minutes. If using powdered gelatin, sprinkle 2 teaspoons (5 grams) gelatin over 2 tablespoons (30 grams) water in a small bowl, stir, and let sit 20 minutes to bloom.
Combine the cream, lemon zest, and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat.
If using gelatin sheets, squeeze out any excess water. Whisk the bloomed gelatin into the cream until the gelatin is dissolved.
Place the white chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 30 seconds.
Whisk the white chocolate and hot cream until smooth. Let the ganache cool to room temperature.
Whisk in the lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the ganache, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight to set.

Champagne-Chocolate Ganache
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons champagne
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup + 1 tablespoon dark chocolate (66% cocoa content), finely chopped
Combine the water, 2 tablespoons (26 grams) of the Champagne, and the cocoa powder in a small bowl. Mix to a smooth paste.
Combine the cream and the remaining 1/4 cup (76 grams) Champagne in a small pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat.
Whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar together in a small bowl. Stream one-third of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly until fully blended, to temper them. Whisk the tempered yolks into the remaining hot cream. Return the pot to medium heat.

Keep whisking! Continue to cook the custard over medium heat until it reaches 185 degrees F (85 degrees C). The custard will turn pale yellow and thicken so that it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder paste until fully incorporated.

Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Strain the custard through a small sieve over the chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds.

Whisk the chocolate and custard until smooth. When finished, the ganache will have the consistency of yogurt. Reserve 1/4 cup (50 grams) for the glaze. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the ganache, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight to set.

Flavoured Sugars

Vanilla Sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Vanilla bean (preferably Tahitian), split lengthwise, seeds scraped

Maple Sugar
1 cup granulated maple sugar
Grated zest from one lemon

Orange Sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
Grated zest from one orange
Combine the sugar and its flavouring in a small bowl. Reserve until needed.

Glazes

Rose Glaze
1/2 cup glazing fondant (Glazing fondant is also known as “fondant icing” or “pastry fondant.” It is similar to royal icing but remains shiny when it sets.)
2 tablespoons rose water

Lemon Glaze
1/2 cup glazing fondant (Glazing fondant is also known as “fondant icing” or “pastry fondant.” It is similar to royal icing but remains shiny when it sets.)
Grated zest from one lemon

Champagne-Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup glazing fondant (Glazing fondant is also known as “fondant icing” or “pastry fondant.” It is similar to royal icing but remains shiny when it sets.)
1/4 cup champagne-chocolate ganache (see above)
Warm the fondant in a small bowl in the microwave in 10-second intervals, stirring between intervals. When the fondant is slightly warm, about 20 seconds, add the corresponding flavour and stir until fully blended.

cronut recipe

In Review: No 11 Pimlico Road, London

no 11 pimlico road
I wish I had discovered No 11 Pimlico Road earlier.

When I first moved back to London as an adult, I saw a lot of the 170’s bus route between Victoria and Clapham, but never noticed the gorgeous interiors of No 11 Pimlico Road, let alone the food menu. Years – and an intense passion for restaurants – later, I was invited for brunch and it turned into a blog. This blog.

No 11 is a diamond in the not-so-rough. The clientele are noticeably diverse (yet always smiling), the atmosphere is lively (yet, somehow, quite homely), and everything of the menu is divine (no yets). From the arrival of my Bloody Mary – Ketel One Citroen vodka & fresh tomato juice served with their house spice mix – I knew I would be a return customer. Even my dining partner’s homemade pink grapefruit and ginger lemonade could be bothered to be made with an in-house lemon sherbet. The charm is all in the details.

Details like a deconstructed club sandwich packed with noticeably high-quality ingredients; succulent grilled marinated chicken, smoked bacon, avocado, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil and basil mayonnaise on sourdough toast. Details like a generous truffled macaroni cheese side that oozed with fragrant truffle and cheese. Details like ‘prawn salad’ that crunches through a bed of chilli mayo salad, avocado, and Monster Prawns…

…maybe its time to move back to Clapham.

no 11 pimlico road

no 11 pimlico road
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