The Great American Food Trip: Scottsdale, Phoenix

So today was our last day in Scottsdale before heading out into the great unknown, so today we took the time to show my parents a little of the Scottsdale area (having left for Prescott almost straight away they hadn’t seen the city in the day!) We started by visiting the Sanctuary resort, where we had an amazing view of both Camelback mountain (and the Praying Monk) and an overall view of the city. We then dropped into the Phoenician Hotel as it was close by, and the swimming pools are just amazing!

We were then in need of a drink so stopped at Jamba Juice for a smoothie or juice. I had a tropical greens juice, which featured kale, apple, pineapple and chia, which despite dad saying that it looked like a blitzed frog (unsurprisingly!), tasted delicious.

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For lunch we hit one of our favourite spots, the Wildflower Bread Company. This was high on our list from last year and it did not disappoint! We shared a Thai chicken salad, alongside a blackberry orange lemonade, and for someone fed up with boring salads, this was a truly delicious lunch. If all salads were like this, I would eat them constantly! We also enjoyed the free samples of Red, White and Blue Bread (white bread full of blueberries and cranberries – also delicious!)

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After lunch we visited the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), which is a must see, undoubtedly the best museum I have ever been to. I have so far been twice and I still don’t feel like I’ve seen everything it has to offer. I could happily spend an entire day there and it is an essential place for anyone with the slightest interest in music.

During the afternoon, Chloe and I made chocolate chip cookies, though after realising halfway through that we had no eggs, had to make an impromptu substitution of apple sauce. This worked extremely well in the cookies and is one I would use again. If you want to try it the basic measurement is 1/3 cup of apple sauce for every egg used, mixed in at the same time as the eggs would be. I haven’t tried it in cakes but the result in biscuits is good!

For supper we hit The Cheesecake Factory. Containing my urge to order a barbeque bacon cheeseburger with bacon, cheese and barbeque sauce on the side (Big Bang Theory geeks, you know who you are!), we enjoyed the Louisiana chicken pasta, a spicy pasta with peppers and mushrooms, topped with spicy crusted chicken. As usual delicious and big portions! I also sampled one of Chloe’s chicken potstickers, which were amazing and reminded me of how much I wish to make them again. No pictures unfortunately – it was so dark they did not come out at all, as the following shot of my Oreo Milkshake shows.

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That is the best I could get so I admit, I gave up. However the milkshake was amazing. So creamy and tasty, basically a dessert in a glass! As a consequence of this, we were in no fit state to eat cheesecake, so instead we bought a piece of Tiramisu Cheesecake to go, which is currently residing in the freezer to be eaten when we get back.

Tomorrow we set off on the road trip, so for the next two nights we’ll be sampling the culinary delights of Kanab, Utah!

The Great American Food Trip: Prescott, Az.

Now whilst our family (my husband’s uncle) live in Phoenix, as it is HOT there at the moment, we had decided that we would acclimatise to the heat by visiting some friends in their cabin in Prescott. Now this turned out to be a very good idea, particularly as the flight over was not a pleasant experience! After having to wait two and a half hours on the Tarmac at Heathrow (which isn’t so cold itself!) we finally completed the 10.5 hour flight.

Except that’s not what happened.

After a half hour hold over Alberquerque, we then were told that there was a massive dust storm over Phoenix so we could not land. Fair enough – we have seen a video of the storm to know that we also did not want to land there. However, due to a lack of fuel we had to divert to Las Vegas, at which point we had to wait for another two hours, in scorching heat with no air conditioning or water. We finally got into Phoenix 7 hours after the expected time, having been up for over twenty four hours with only about an hours sleep. Now some of you may be fine, me – I need my 8 hours!

But anyway, the next day we woke up and drove to Prescott, stopping first in the town centre which seemed to be cowboy Central, from the shooting range to the people in traditional dress wandering the streets.

For lunch we stopped at the lovely Raven Cafe, an organic cafe in the centre of the town. Knowing about the provenance of food is a brilliant aspect of the new foodie scene in my opinion, and this restaurant included a big blackboard telling you exactly where all the produce has come from – a big plus point! The food was its major selling point though (as it should be). I chose the special of Cajun Fish Tacos, along with sweet potato fries and an iced chai.

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Fish Tacos with Dill Cream

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Sweet Potato Fries

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Iced Chai

The tacos were truly delicious. I tried to eat them in the traditional way which resulted in a lot of mess, but really it was worth it. There were big chunks of subtly flavoured fish, beautifully moist topped with crispy cabbage and a dill yoghurt which added a light but creamy texture to the whole dish. The sweet potato fries were everything they should be – thin, crispy and incredibly more-ish, whilst the iced chai provided a wonderful cinnamon-y accompaniment to the whole meal. Definitely a hit for me, and one to look out for!

For supper we had a barbecue on the deck of the cabin we were staying in, which was just perfection. Now I did not realise that Arizona had forests, but the whole landscape was picture perfect, so peaceful and a wonderful place to escape to. After enjoying our burgers, corn, homemade kale chips and potato salad, we planned to enjoy the next great American Classic – the s’more! However, this got moved inside after we started getting attacked by bugs. Pathetic I know, but when a 2 inch flying beatle starts to attack you, you want to go somewhere where it isn’t! As a result the S’mores and other associated goodies were moved inside. No pictures I’m afraid – I have great admiration for the willpower of anyone who is presented with a hot s’more and waits to take a picture…

The next day, we went for brunch at the Iron Springs Cafe, just down the road from the cabins. Whenever I go to the states, I always find portion sizes hard to gauge, as they are often so much bigger that we are accustomed to, and so we try to sample as many things but without wastage – when the food’s as good as it is, I don’t want to leave any of it on my plate! So between us, Max and I decided on a small gumbo and a plate of Pork Green Chile and associated sides. Both were delicious – the gumbo hot and spicy and filled with chicken and andouille sausage, whilst the pork was falling apart and so flavoursome! I particularly enjoyed the black beans as a side dish, one thing I always miss when I’m in England! Add to that a Mexican iced chocolate, spiked with cinnamon and I was happy!

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Gumbo with Chicken and Andouille Sausage

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Pork Green Chile with rice and black beans

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Mexican Iced Chocolate

Well, that’s about it for the first two days. I leave you with the results of our blind tasting of Malteasters and Malt Balls – Malt balls have more chocolate but everyone (except Max and I) seem to prefer them! However, that doesn’t stop me eating them every time I near the candy bar that cousin Chloe created!

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Happy summer all!

The Great American Food Trip

So, I’m in the USA at the moment, visiting family in Arizona. However tomorrow I’m setting off to drive from Phoenix to Vancouver, and experience some great food and views on the way. As a result the next three weeks are going to be dedicated to more than just cake – sure it’ll be in there, but more than that. It’ll be a food diary of us taking in some of the best that America has to offer (on a reasonable budget)

I’m also going to attempt to sample the best in American baking – last year I was focused purely in cupcakes – this year its time to develop!

Any suggestions as you read? Please let me know and I’ll check it out!

Canadian Celebration Cake

Today, this blog features a guest recipe from my lovely friend Cadence who was the winner of the Wedding cake competition (taste Category). This cake was so good, not only did she win by a mile, everyone fought over the leftovers after the day! I’m glad to say that I got it though!

Canadian Celebration Cake

When deciding what cake to bake for a friends wedding ‘bake off’ competition the choice of which category of competition I would enter came down to the time I had to bake. With only the evening available the night before the happy event I thought cracking out the fondent icing could turn into a long night and as I wished to be awake the following day my attention turned to a cake which could be worthy of wining any taste competition……..step forward Maple syrup and orange cake!
A beautifully moist cake with a delightful double cream filling and topping……white, perfect for a wedding occasion!
Recipe (based on the recipe in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible)
Ingredients:
225g Softened butter
225g of light muscovado sugar (I used a mixture of light brown sugar and caster sugar)
Grated rind of 1 large orange
4 eggs
100 ml maple syrup
350g self raising flour
2 level teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
(Can add 50g chopped pecans – I chose not to as am not a fan of nuts)
The topping
450ml double cream (I had plenty with this 400ml would probably be fine)
2 tablespoons of maple syrup (no more or is far too sweet)
Shredded rind of 1 orange
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 160*C/140*C/gas 3
Grease a 20cm (8in) deep round cake tin and line the base with baking parchment
Measure the butter and sugar into a bowl and blend together, then add the remainder of the ingredients and mix until evenly blended
Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and level the surface
Bake for 1-1.5 hours until well risen and golden
Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out and removing the parchment and leaving to cool on a wire rack
To make the filing and topping whip the cream until it holds it’s shape and them gently fold in the maple syrup.
Split the cake horizontally into 2 and fill with the cream
Cover the the cake top and sides with the cream smoothing it as evenly as possible. Decorate with shredded orange rind.
Keep in the fridge, I would recommend covering as otherwise the cream becomes a dull colour and cracks.
Enjoy! ( is nicest eaten if cut and allowed to come to room temperature rather than directly from the fridge and cooled)

Wedding Cake(s)

As a cake-focused blogger, when you get married the cake is going to be a central aspect of an ceremony. But what happens when you can’t narrow the different types down?

Well, this.

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I knew as a slightly fanatical baker, that I wanted cake to be a central feature of my wedding, and so I decided to have a Great British Bake-Off style cake competition. So I suggested the ideas to my guests, and as you can tell they responded fantastically.

The contestants were asked to bring and decorate  a cake of their choice, with two prize being awarded – one for taste and one for decoration. Here are some of the amazing entries we had!

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Gluten-Free Fruit Cake – Winner of the decoration prize!

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French Chocolate Cake

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Multi-coloured Marble Cake

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Cappuccino Cake

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Guinness Cake

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Victoria Sandwich ‘Bundt-ing’ Cake

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My grandmother’s fruit cake

And obviously every wedding needs the official cake (chocolate of course!)

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Mint Humbug Cupcakes

Old fashioned mint sweets are gradually going out of fashion in the UK. They are regarded as being a particularly old-fashioned sweet, and the new innovations in confectionary techniques and flavours have tended to drive people towards to newer types of sweets. Humbugs though, still have a particular vintage appeal to them, and one that still is appealing today.

Mint Humbug Cupcake

 

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Another Hummingbird Bakery recipe, this one takes the traditional boiled sweet, the mint humbug and develops this into a cupcake. I was dubious about this – I often find caramel very sweet, but in this recipe the peppermint goes someway to cutting through the sweetness. The recipe suggests topping them with crushed mint humbugs, but I used rice paper butterflies to top the cupcakes – I couldn’t face any more sugar in them!

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Mint Humbug Cupcakes

Instructions:

Cake:

  • 70g butter, softened.
  • 210g plain flour
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 210 ml whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint essence
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g tinned caramel

Frosting:

  • 500g icing sugar
  • 160g butter, softened
  • 50ml milk
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint essence
  • 20g tinned caramel

Ingredients:

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3, and line a cupcake tin with liners. Set aside for later.

Beat together the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until they form crumbs. Mix the eggs, milk and peppermint essence together in a separate bowl and when well-combined, start adding to the dry ingredients, slowly and mixing well after each addition. Beat the mixture until a smooth batter is formed. Add the caramel and mix in until well-distributed through the mixture.

Fill the cupcake cases to 2/3’s full, and bake for 30 minutes until form and well risen. Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Make the frosting by beating together the butter, icing sugar and milk with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the peppermint essence and caramel and beat until completely combined. Transfer to a piping bag and pip a swirl onto the top of each cupcake,before decorating as you prefer.

The United States of America: Chilli Cumin Cornbread

Cornbread s described by the Hummingbird Bakery (from which this recipe is taken) as the ultimate cheats bread – it’s quick, needs no rising and can be on the table in under an hour. I love standard cornbread, but this one is a step above. Flavoured with chilli and cumin, and with the addition of sweetcorn to add texture, this loaf is excellent to eat as an accompaniment to chowders or soup, with cheese as part of a salad lunch or just on its own, warm from the oven with melted butter.

Chilli Cumin Cornbread

Chilli Cumin Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 20g ground cumin
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 60g polenta
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch of groud black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 90g sour cream
  • 100ml milk
  • 120g sweetcon (defrosted if frozen)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 and grease and line a a loaf tin with baking parchment.

Mix the dry ingredients together until well combined. In a separate bowl, mix together the sour cream, milk and eggs and then add to the dry ingredients. Beat the mixture together until a batter forms. Add the sweetcorn and mix briefly to ensure an even spread.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Take it out of the oven and cool briefly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack  and cooling further – if you can wait that long!