Thursday 28 April 2016

Blueberry Cupcakes

Hey everyone :)

Whenever I think muffin or cupcake - the first flavour that always pops into my head is - blueberry! I've ate many a blueberry muffin in my time - lots from Starbucks and I love them! This is a Martha Stewart recipe - one I found through Pinterest and it's the first recipe I've ever tried from her.

Ingredients (batter):
1 2/3 cup of plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup soured cream
6 ounces blueberries

Ingredients (topping):
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Ingredients (icing):
1 1/4 stick unsalted butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup blueberry jam

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a muffin tray with 12 cases.
2. In one bowl add the dry ingredients so - flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and mix them together.
3. In a mixer bow add the butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time and the vanilla extract and then beat until incorporated.
4. Gradually add the flour mixture and alternate between the flour mixture and the soured cream.
5. Stop the mixer and add the blueberries and fold in (be gently and not too rough).
6. Spoon the mixture into the cases.
7. Make the topping - so in a little bowl - add the sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon and mix together. Then sprinkle on top of the batter in the cases.
8. Bake for 20 minutes (or until the skewer/toothpick comes out clean).
9. Remove from oven and leave in tray for 5 - 10 minutes and then transfer to wire cooling rack to cool completely.

I decided the cupcakes looked great without the icing and so didn't make it - so this step is optional.

10. In a mixer bowl - combine the butter, cream cheese and vanilla essence until mixed together.
11. Gradually add the icing sugar and combine until all mixed together.
12. Using a sieve strain some blueberry jam through it to remove skins and seeds and then add to the butter/cream cheese frosting - DO NOT MIX - just add to the top.
13. Get a piping bag and spoon the mixture into the bag and then pipe onto the cakes in whatever decoration or way you want. The jam should add a swirl effect to the frosting.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.


Tuesday 26 April 2016

Chocolate Truffle Balls

Hey everyone :)

When I was in school I had Home Economic class and we made some memorable dishes and not so memorable dishes. One of them was chocolate truffles (not the same recipe as this, but something similar). I love chocolate truffles - they are small and bitesize and yummy!

20 digestive biscuits
125g butter
200g condensed milk
125g desiccated coconut

Decoration: chocolate strands or desiccated coconut

1. Put the 20 digestive biscuits into a bag (any will do) and bash with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs. I suppose (thinking about it now) you could buzz them up in a food processor.
2. In a large pot ... add the condensed milk and the butter and melt on a low heat. Once all melted add the crushed digestive biscuits and the desiccated coconut and mix until everything comes together.
3. Now get a plate and put your coatings on them ... I used desiccated coconut but you can use the chocolate strands, get your truffle mix and a bowl of warm water (this is to stop the mixture sticking to your fingers and palms and to make the truffles a little wet if needed.
4. Take a small amount and roll into a ball and then coat in the coconut and then pop on a tray or in a airtight container and keep repeating until you have lots of little balls of yummy treat! You can buy the little cupcake cases for them (the tiny ones) but I didn't bother.
5. This is optional but you can weigh the balls so they are all equal - it takes longer but then they look better I think ... mine were all 17g each.
6. If you find that the chocolate strands or the desiccated coconut is not sticking the mixture might be too dry so just keep your hands wet and this makes the balls stickier and wetter and then the coating will stick.

Have you ever tried making truffles or anything similar? Let me know in the comments below. The original recipe is available on Tesco's website HERE


Wednesday 20 April 2016

Astro A50 Gaming Headset

Hey everyone :)

I've loved gaming for as long as I can remember. I remember when the first kid in our street got a PS1 and he asked me to come over - that was possibly the most exciting Christmas break I had!

I think the first time I was really exposed to gaming (or real gaming) I'm excluding our PS1 and PS2 and all the Crash Bandicoot games we had was Second Life. Although anyone that had played this will be shouting abuse at me now as they don't really classify it as a game - it's a 'second life'. - You can be who you want or what you want and do what you want! Such a great world to explore.

I then moved onto WOW (World of Warcraft) where I spent many hours of my university days playing it. I spent hours and hours gathering herbs and crushing them down to make ink and then making glyphs and selling them in the auction house.

I then started playing LOL (League of Legends) which was a great game and there are championships and competitions for this game! My friend Luke plays this too. I managed to get Dave into it for ages and then he moved onto Destiny.

I also played a bit of Star Wars Online which was great fun and much like WOW.

I then bought my Xbox One and my PS4 and I got Destiny (which I had for the PS3 but most of my friends were on the PS4). Destiny had been my go-to game since it came out over a year ago now. It's a great game and there is so much to do. I've yet to stop and say 'I can't do anything else'. I managed to get Dave into it and he even bought his own PS4 and Destiny because he loved playing it that much. He is even better than me now ... but that's because I work more than him haha!

I was talking to one of my friends who plays Destiny and I was moaning that I didn't have a good headset and I hated the little headset that game with the PS4. He suggested having a look at the Astro A50s. I took a look and they looked great - you'll see from the pictures dotted around this post. The only issue (they're quite expensive) shhhh!!! Mine cost £200 but that was because I got a £50 discount with a voucher code I had. Normally they are around £250.

The PS4 version comes in black with blue wiring and looks great. There is also a grey outline around the edges which gives it a great finish.

The headset comes with:

> Dolby Digital 7.1
> Superior Fit & Finish
> Tuned with Astro Audio
> 5.8GHZ Wireless Technology
> Pro Quality Audio

I have to admit they are the best sounding headset I have ever used. The sound is just amazing and it feels like your in a cinema. It's fits snug around my head, is comfortable to wear and isn't too heavy. The mic is great and bends so it can be further or closer to your mouth. Friends have commented that my voice is very clear and crisp.

The headset has a main volume control for both voice and game volume. There is also on the side panel a game volume and voice volume control which lets you change what you want to hear more of ... ie 25% voice and 75% game.

The headset also comes in a lovely massive box with a stand and the base unit that transmits the signals to the headset.

A very good headset and one I think is worth the money (if you have £250 to spend). Let me know in the comments what headset you use and what you think of it? If you want to read into more detail you can find this headset HERE


Tuesday 19 April 2016

Mars Bar Caramel Crispie Cakes

Hey everyone :)

When I was younger but grandmother used to make what we called 'Mars Bar Traybake' and it was amazing! I remember eating so much and then feeling sick and I remember fighting with my brother over who would get to lick the bowl.

Now the recipe was always done as a traybake (meaning in a tray - flat and covered in a layer of chocolate but I wanted to try a cupcake version and I think they turned out well.

290g (or 7 bars) of Mars Bars
125g margarine
250g rice crispies
180g golden syrup

Chocolate for deocration (white or milk or dark)

1. Cut the Mars Bars into small chunks and the margarine (if hard, if soft don't worry).
2. In a pot (on a low heat) melt the margarine, Mars Bars and golden syrup.
3. Once melted add the rice crispies and mix until they are coated in the melted sauce.
4. Line cupcake/muffin cases in a tin and spoon the mixture in heaps.
5. Melt some chocolate of your choice (I went with white) in a bowl over some hot water and then drizzle over the cupcakes.
6. Leave to cool.

What did you get up to over the weekend? Anything exciting? Let me know in the comments below.


Friday 15 April 2016

PS4 Game: Division

Hey everyone :)

Sorry about the lack of posts everyone ... I'm ill and normally I just power through it and carry on with life but this is one of the worst cold (or maybe it's man flu) I've ever had! I wake up with banging sore headaches, I'm achy all over, sore throat, chesty cough, snotty nose ... I could go on ... so I've been drinking orange juice and sleeping as much as I can to get rid of it!

Today's post is about Tom Clancy's 'The Division' game - funnily enough it does remind me of the television show on CW called 'Division' with Nikita - I'm sure I've mentioned it on here. It's about a secret unit of the government who carry out 'illegal' missions for the country or whatever.

The game is similar in that there are sleeper agents all over the world who are living with their wives, husbands, kids and then they are 'activated' because the world has got crazy - in this case a virus has wiped out quite a lot of New York.

This is the 'blurb' or whatever you call a description for a game which explains it much better than I have:

We live in a complex world. The more advanced it gets, the more vulnerable it becomes. We've created a house of cards; remove just one, and everything falls apart.

Black Friday - a devastating pandemic sweeps through New York City, and one by one, basic services fail. In only days, without food and water, society collapses into chaos. The Division, an autonomous unit of tactical agents, is activated. Leading seemingly ordinary lives among us, these agents are trained to operate independently in order to save society. 

When society falls, we rise. 

Doesn't it sound exciting - I've played it and even this description/blurb gets me excited again! I've been playing Destiny non-stop since it came out and this is a great game to move into! It is very similar in that it's an open world and you can do side missions. Then you have the main story missions and you can also do missions for 3 departments - medical, security and tech. When you complete a mission successfully you get points which you can then use to upgrade a section in your Base of Operations.

It's a very enjoyable game and one I would recommend. Let me know in the comments what your playing at the moment.

If you want to find out any more details check out their website HERE.


Tuesday 12 April 2016

Lemon Cupcakes

Hey everyone :)

YES! Cupcakes are back! I missed baking cupcakes! I wonder how many times I can say cupcakes in the same sentence - cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes!

Little life update: My car got crashed into last week when I was ferrying my parents around ... currently unaware whether its getting repaired or written off ... still waiting on a call. We're all okay - which is the main thing! With the car accident, work being hectic, being ill (thanks Dad) and Dave on holiday in another country - I was a bit all over the place so I only posted once last week ... hopefully I can make up for it this week!

Today's post (as the title suggests) is about some zesty, yummy lemon cupcakes I made over the weekend! I got the recipe from BBC Good Food which you can check out HERE. I've altered it a tiny little bit so you can get the original info there.

125g of soft butter
125g of caster sugar
2 medium eggs
100g of self raising flour
2 tbsp of milk
2 lemons

1. Pre-heat oven to 180ยบC and line a cupcake/muffin tray with 12 cases.
2. Add the butter and sugar to a bowl and mix until light and fluffy.
3. Add the eggs, flour, milk, the zest of both lemons and the juice of 1 of the lemons and combine together.
4. Spoon the mixture into the cases and bake for 10-15 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and leave in tray for 5 minutes then transfer to wire cooling rack.

The recipe includes a butter icing for the top that is piped on ... but I wasn't feeling that and chose a water icing but instead of water I used the juice from the other lemon which gives the icing a zesty taste!

Icing Sugar (amount can vary)
Lemon Juice (from a lemon or a bottle)

1. Add some icing sugar to a bowl and add a small amount of lemon juice and mix until dissolved. The amount of liquid depends on how thick/thin you want your icing.
2. Using a teaspoon and a glass of hot water ... add 1/2 a teaspoon of icing onto the cupcake and then using the hot water and the back of the teaspoon smooth the icing over the top of the cupcake - the hot water stops the icing sticking to the spoon and gives the tops a nice, smooth finish.
3. Ice all the cakes ... if you need more icing (I made 3 batches) start from step 1 again.

What did you get up to this weekend? Anything exciting?! Let me know in the comments below.


Tuesday 5 April 2016

Meringue Kisses

Hey everyone :)

I hope you had a good weekend? I was on holiday last week as my parents were visiting - they had a good holiday (apart from the ending which saw a Royal Mail lorry (yes the big artic one) smash into the side my car) we are all okay thankfully - the car not so much!

Instead of cupcakes or brownies or flapjacks I decided to try meringue this week! I had been watching a few videos on YouTube and came across a duo called 'The Meringue Girls' who make these cute little 'Meringue Kisses' and so I thought I'd try make them. I think I did over beat my mixture because it went a bit runny so my kisses are more like floppy wet kisses than proper ones - but who cares - it's how they taste that matters.

There are a few tips when it comes to making meringue so I thought I'd reel those of first.

Tip 1: Make sure there is no grease present as this stops your meringue from getting volume - wipe your bowl with 1/2 a lemon or some cider vinegar and then dry with kitchen towel. I do my mixing bowl and the whisk utensil.

Tip 2: If you are using eggs then ensure you get absolutely no yolk in the white when separating - if you do then through it out and start again. If you are using liquid egg whites - then no issues here!

Tip 3: Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and put your caster sugar on a baking tray lined with baking paper and pop in the oven for about 7 minutes until hot to the touch - warm sugar makes the meringues glossier and better.

Tip 4: Introduce as less liquid flavouring as possible - I bought some 'intense flavours' from someone on Amazon and you only need a little bit and its very strong. The more liquid you add the more it deflates the volume you've created.

Tip 5: When whisking the egg whites start of slow and build up the speed - this builds stabilizing bubbles and will help keep the volume.

Tip 6: When colouring - it is easier to paint your piping bag with colour than to add the colour to the meringue as I mentioned liquids will deflate your meringue. Just turn the piping bag inside out/ or lay it flat and using a paint brush - paint colour on the inside and then add your meringue and pipe away.

For the meringue - it's a very simple recipe - it's a 2:1 ratio of sugar to egg whites. So if you have 500g caster sugar, then you will use 250g egg whites. If you use 200g caster sugar then you will use 100g of egg white and so on - it realyl depends on how much you want to make. 500g/250g is the biggest my mixing bowl can take so remember about that when mixing - you don't want the bowl overflowing.

500g caster sugar (warm to the touch)
250g egg whites (liquid egg whites)

1. Preheat oven to 200°C and put the sugar in to warm (this takes about 7 minutes).
2. Clean your equipment with lemon or cider vinegar.
3. Add the egg whites into the bowl and turn the mixer on slow. After a couple of minutes you will see some bubbles. You can then increase speed more after this.
4. About 30 seconds before the sugar is ready turn the mixer up to full speed and you should end up with stiff peeks.
5. With the mixer on medium - begin adding the sugar tablespoon by tablespoon.
6. Once all added you should keep mixing for about 5 minutes until all grains of sugar are dissolved into the mixture.
7. Paint your piping bag with colour
8. Fold in any flavouring to the meringue.
9. Add the meringue to the piping bag and start piping onto baking sheets lined with baking paper.
10. Bake for about 40-45 minutes - they will be ready when the 'kiss' comes from the baking paper easily and without fuss.

They will be nice and crisp on the outside and mallow'ey and chewy on the inside.

These will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days. Try and not leave them out as they absorb moisture.

Have you made meringues before? How did you get on? Did you keep all your volume? Let me know in the comments below. You can find the original recipe HERE if you want more details etc.

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