Posts Tagged 'britain'

When It Comes To Bananas, You Can’t Slime Me – Banoffee Pie

banoffee pie 1

Simple, quick and a total crowd-pleaser, this dessert is nouveau-British classic. I had it once during my time there, and it was enough to convert me from “I-never-eat-raw-bananas” to “I-always-eat-raw-bananas-when-they-are-covered-in-whipped-cream-and-caramel.”

banoffee pie 5

banoffee pie 2

Even though the technique is easy, the pie takes a little time to prepare, as you have to let the caramel chill to set before it can be served. I thought that maybe I didn’t cook my caramel long enough (it didn’t get as brown as I thought it should), but it tasted right enough.

banoffee pie 6

Make sure your layer the bananas and whipped cream just prior to serving (or I did mine an hour before). If you cover the bananas completely with the cream, you shouldn’t have any issues with them turning brown, but I am really sensitive to slime, so I wasn’t taking any chances.

banoffee pie 3

The amount of rave that these received was enough to shut down the review forum. Guys, these got rave reviews. Try it, you’ll like it.

On this Random Tuesday, I have conquered bananas. YOU CAN’T SLIME ME. Celebration is in order.


Banoffee Pie

Adapted from Carnation and Saveur

1 box graham crackers, finely ground

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, divided

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup brown sugar

3-4 bananas

2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream, cold

chocolate (optional)

Place graham cracker crumbs in a bowl. Melt one stick of butter, then add to the crumbs, stirring until incorporated. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Chill.

Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and melt over low heat. Add the condensed milk, and bring the mixture to a boil for a few minutes, stirring continuously. The toffee should darken slightly. Pour the filling into the crust. Chill again for at least one hour until the caramel is firm.

Before serving, slice up the bananas and place in a single layer over the toffee. Whip the heavy whipping cream in the bowl of a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Spread this over the banana layer. Garnish with chocolate shavings.

Best served the day it is made.

Pipe Dream #108: To Declare War – Coffee Buttercream Meringues

I have this thing about meringues. It’s like a war. I love making them, because they are delicious and light, and you can sandwich them together with frosting, so they are basically just an excuse to eat frosting. But I also hate making them because one time in two, they don’t turn out. There are many reasons for the egg whites not whipping up properly, which you can read about here. Quick summary though: If your beater/bowl is dirty, it won’t work; if there is any water in the bowl, it won’t work; if there are any bits of eggshell in the whites, it won’t work; and if your egg whites aren’t room temperature, it won’t work.

And I sit here giving you all my reasons why meringues are so finnicky, but the underlying reason (and there usually are underlying character flaws for all of my baking mistakes) is that I am careless and impatient. I think to myself, “Oh, leaving the eggs out for 20 minutes beforehand is enough to bring them to room temperature, surely. And besides, Facebook calls I’m supposed to be applying for jobs right now. I’ll just start whipping the meringues now.” So I do, and the end result is that my eggs whites sit in a gloppy white puddle, with a bunch of undissolved sugar  at the bottom of the mixing bowl.

So I am declaring war on my character flaws (insofar as they affect my baking skills) and I will attempt to do right by meringues. I was patient with these, even going so far as to pipe them into puffs. Then I quick-baked them so they turned out hollow filled them with a coffee-flavored buttercream.

This buttercream recipe is one from my new favorite cookbook The Great British Bake Off’s “How To Bake: The Perfect Victoria Sponge and Other Baking Secrets.” I’ve never seen the show, which is probably good because I’d probably be addicted like I was to Alias in ’06 (unhealthy). I love love love the cookbook though because the recipes in it are so classically British, and it reminds me of my time over there. Anyway, the buttercream is made with egg yolks rather than egg whites, which made for a very smooth consistency. I had trouble with one batch splitting–be very careful not to overbeat it–but I’m still counting this as a win because I didn’t have any problems with the meringues themselves.

This means war,

Lauren 1     Meringues 0


2 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup regular or superfine sugar

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add salt, cream of tartar and vanilla, and beat mixture again until it holds soft peaks. Add the sugar, gradually, beating the batter until it is stiff. Spoon batter onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for 25 minutes. Undersides of cookies should be golden or lightly tanned.

Coffee Buttercream

Adapted from The Great British Bake Off’s “How To Bake”

Makes enough to decorate 12 cupcakes or to fill and top a 20cm sponge cake pan

85 grams caster (superfine) sugar

2 large egg yolks

150 grams unsalted butter, very soft but not runny

1 teaspoon vanilla OR 75 grams dark chocolate, melted and cooled OR 1-2 tablespoons cold, very strong black coffee

a sugar thermometer or cooking thermometer

Put the sugar and four tablespoons water into a small heavy-based pan and heat gently, without boiling, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and boil until the temperature reaches 110 degrees C/225 degrees F on a sugar thermometer. This will take about five minutes. Don’t let the syrup caramelize.

Meanwhile, put the egg yolks into a heatproof bowl and mix briefly. Stand the bowl on a damp cloth to keep it from slipping. Pour the hot sugar syrup into the bowl in a thin, steady stream, whisking constantly with an electric mixer. Keep whisking until the mixture becomes very thick and mousse-like, pale in color and completely cold.

Gradually whisk in the soft butter followed by the vanilla, chocolate or coffee (to taste). Spoon or pipe the buttercream onto the cakes. In warm weather, chill the decorated cakes just until the icing is firm.

Pipe Dream #53: To Take Real Pictures of the Best Thing EVER, Revisited – Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Ok so I told you about this cake before. And I warned you that the description was horribly inadequate. And so it was. I hope this post clears that all up. Yes, it is a repost; no, I don’t mind in the slightest, and neither will you once you make this, eat it and die a blissfully chocolated death.

I made this cake for the students. All the British people make fun of the North Americans for loving peanut butter so much. And it is true. Ever since coming here, all anyone ever talks about is peanut butter and when they can buy another jar at Tesco’s, the small town chain grocery. We spread it on our toast; we spread it on our fruit; we spread it on our fingers so we can lick it off during lecture. We love it more than Nutella, which is the staple sweet spread. That last statement is a considerable one. Think about how good Nutella is!

Point of the story, the kitchen does not make enough with peanut butter. Actually, I don’t know that they have made anything with peanut butter. They just sit back and watch us wallow in peanut butterless misery. Obviously, given my own peanut butterless misery Messiah complex, I decided to remedy the situation with a cake that has proven to be a winner with all nations, classes, and denominations.

Enter, chocolate peanut butter cake with chocolate peanut butter glaze.

I had this sweet idea to make long rectangular layer cakes for 150 people. Despite a bit of difficulty manuevering the unintentionally super thin layers out of the cake pans without parchment paper (read: the dumbest idea of my life), the cakes came together in the end. And the frosting was even better than I remembered.



Best Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen‘s version from Sky-High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes, her notes follow below, and her pictures are better than mine, as per usual :]

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

For the peanut butter frosting:
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

For the chocolate peanut butter glaze:
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Favorite Shots: Epileptic Hostel

So the light in the shot is exactly how the light in the room was, which is just dumb chance on my part. And ok, so maybe you don’t think it is awesome. but I love this picture with a super love.

I think I extra love this shot because I took it after I got semi-reamed by some neurotic British guy. I paid a pretty annoying price to get it. Here is the story: We were in the common room of our hostel and some guy that we were hanging out with was annoying the British guy (let’s call him Harry) by taking two pictures with the flash on. Of his friends or something. So Harry comes over all fast and serious and is like, “Hey, I have epilepsy, and I’m really sensitive to the flash, so can you please not be taking pictures with it.” And everyone was super apologetic and sorry, and the guy quit taking pictures.

So later on, I was taking a few quick shots of the room WITHOUT FLASH, and this is the conversation Harry and I had:

Harry: Hey.

Me: Oh, I’m so sorry, I’m really not using the flash; I’m just taking a couple of pictures really quick and I promise without the flash so…

Harry: Me and my friends were just having a piss.

Me: What?

Harry: I was just having a piss.

Me: Um…sorry.

Harry: Where are you from? (Because he could tell I had no idea what he was talking about.)

Me: Um, the United States. (And I was thinking, “Shoot! Why didn’t I say Canada? Now he really doesn’t like me.”)

Harry: Ok, we were just having a laugh at you. I don’t really have epilepsy. (He said all of this very condescendingly.)

Me: Oh. (And I just kind of stared blankly at him.)

Harry: I used to work in the film industry, and so I got tired of all the flashes, and it is just so annoying when people are flashing pictures of their friends every five seconds, innit? I mean, I want you all to have memories of your trip or whatever, but if you could just not take pictures, that would be lovely.

Me: Right. (But I’m thinking, “Dude, he took two pictures. Two. Chill yourself out. Plus, you don’t need to be telling me. I’m not even using the flash, which you darn well know.”)

Harry: So what do you shoot with?

And I showed him.

Harry: Ah, very nice. Cheers.

And walks away. And I was annoyed. And produced this shot. Which I will now cherish for its sweet composition and fantastically interesting depth of field rather than for the psychoness of Harry.

So good at blending in,


Favorite Shots: Quintessentially British

When I went to college, I was fairly surprised that fraternities and sororities were actually like those portrayed in the movies. Usually Hollywood over-exaggerates everything, but in this case, it was true.

Another thing that Hollywood does not over-exaggerate is the British-ness of Britain. Look at this picture! That is real life! And doesn’t it just confirm everything you’ve ever thought about British clotheslines?

Chronically yours,


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