Maple-glazed spice donuts

I’ve had a mildly-concerning obsession with donuts for a long time – one which escapes explanation. What is it about these tiny pillows of joy that makes them so irresistible? Perhaps it’s their aesthetically pleasing circular shape, suggesting never-ending enjoyment. Or their satisfying squishiness – you could squeeze a donut to death and it would bounce right back. (Not like those fragile, high-maintenance French pastries.) Or perhaps it’s their colourful icing-and-sprinkles clothes. Vibrant pinks, cheerful yellows and warm oranges in an otherwise grey world. Whatever the reason, I have loved donuts since I was little, and could stretch my sticky little fingers up to the kitchen benchtop and wolf down two cinnamon donuts before anyone noticed.

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Baking my own donuts today involved less door-watching and more whisking. It’s a very simple recipe, one I found here, and only took about 1 hour to make, from start to finish. Dipping those babies in their icing bath was definitely the best part. I chose maple-glazed donuts because it’s Fall here in the States, and I stumbled upon some beautiful red leaves on my walk home. I love seeing the streets carpeted burnt orange as pumpkins stand guard outside doorways, and the trees shed their dry coats, bracing themselves for winter. It’s the perfect time of year to fill your kitchen with the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Enjoy!

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At long last

The time between posts has been long. Interminably long. I could pretend that the pistachio cupcakes from my last post were fully successful in luring leprechauns to my window, and they turned out to be less gold-giving, and more ransom-taking than I had expected. But the likelihood of you believing that a 5’10” adult was held captive for 5 months by a miniature magical creature is fairly low. So I will take the high road, and explain honestly that my absence was caused by nothing less than living life to the full. It has been the most hectic 5 months of my life – exams, graduation, travelling – and I barely had time to breathe, let alone blog. But I have returned with renewed vigour and decided that the best way to apologise for my disappearance is with flowers.

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The most satisfying thing about using flowers to decorate a cake, is arriving with an armful of flowers, being asked if you need to put them in water, and responding with a shake of your head, “Nope, we’re eating these.” I chose lavender sprigs, rose petals and baby’s breath for my floral garnish, and blueberries for a little blue POP of colour (like how I did that with the capitals?). Each flower had to be dipped in egg white, rolled in sugar and left to dry for an hour before being used for decoration.

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The cake itself was super easy to make (recipe here). The hardest part was finding a bundt pan that would serve both aesthetic and stomach-filling purposes. Be careful with measurements; I had to double the ingredients listed in the recipe so I had sufficient batter to fill my giant bundt pan.

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This was the final result – served on a wooden board just because I felt like it (and it was easy to be creative with the border garnish). You will definitely have enough flowers to be frivolous with their arrangement at the end. You could turn your back to the board, throw a lavender sprig over your shoulder and just see where it lands. What’s stopping you?

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So the next time you stop to smell the roses on your morning walk, or a random foray into your local florist – consider an alternative to suspending their lives in a jar full of water. Instead, they could be adorning your next cake, adding their beautiful scent to the lingering smell of butter and sugar. Enjoy!

 

 

Leprechaun bait

Take a trip down memory lane. Comb through those cobwebs and remember a time when everything was carefree, uncomplicated and significantly shorter. What was the one thing you desperately wanted to catch when you were a kid: a cricket? A butterfly? A giant hairy spider to stuff inside your sister’s socks? Whatever it was, you probably remember the thrill of the chase, the excitement of the capture and the giant grin plastered across your face as you ran back into the house, muddy and grass-stained, holding up your conquest for everyone to see. I wanted to re-live that childlike euphoria in the capture of a little green leprechaun on St Patrick’s Day. I mean, think of all the things you could do with a pet leprechaun! You’d always have great shoes, a pot of gold and a personal tour guide to the end of any rainbow. Unfortunately, my attempts at luring leprechauns to my window using strategically placed cupcakes did not succeed. Perhaps their diets don’t extend to pistachios, chocolate or buttercream frosting … Who knew?

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The recipe for the chocolate cupcakes can be found here and for the buttercream frosting I just softened a stick of butter, whipped it into submission, mixed with 2 cups of sifted icing sugar and dyed green. Each cupcake then received a light sprinkling of pistachio crumbs.

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Welcome to Slothville

Sometimes you just feel lazy. A wave of indifference crashes over you, and suddenly nothing matters anymore. Everything feels too hard. Getting to class on time? Overrated. Going clubbing on a Friday night? Overpriced. Who needs clubs anyway when you can dance in front of the mirror in your sweatpants singing to Sara Bareilles very loudly and very off-key? It’s days like these that you need easy-peasy recipes. Food that basically cooks itself (and you only need to chew). These spaghetti-stuffed peppers appealed to me because they halved my cleaning-up time. No bowls = no mess. Just edible capsicum cups, which provided a crunchy, juicy complement to the creamy, cheesy twirls of spaghetti inside.

ImageThe pesto spaghetti was very simple to make. Boiled pasta + diced spinach + one clove of minced garlic + juice of 2 limes + pesto sauce + sun-dried tomatoes + shaved parmesan = twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom. I might add pistachios next time for extra texture and crunch.

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I love how the spaghetti spills voluptuously out of its capsicum cup, just begging to be eaten.

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So next time you hit the snooze button and decide that today is going to be a Day Where Nothing Is Worth Putting On Pants For, dig up some peppers from your fridge, boil some spaghetti and enjoy a good meal that requires minimal effort. Cheers to sloths everywhere.

The Other Place

This was my first journey to the Dark Side. The Other Place, mentioned only in hushed, reluctant whispers. A sprawling, industrial cityscape that seems harsher and larger than our own little bubble yet contains people leading lives parallel to our own. I encountered the same mix of cafés and cosy pubs huddled in the overhanging grandeur of 15th Century buildings. Bikes lining every street like silent guardians. Cobblestones competing for space on the footpath, gleefully tripping up unsuspecting tourists. Flower boxes overflowing with colour. Canals stretching out in the sunlight, flecked with poky barges and overgrown weeds like a scene from The Wind in the Willows. Halls saturated in both history and Hogwarts fame. Graduates strolling the streets, robes billowing out behind them like a coven of witches. It may be The Other Place, but Oxford is not so different from Cambridge after all.

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Sweet onion, potato and gruyere cheese calzone at The Punter. Beautifully light, flaky pastry which tore effortlessly apart to reveal a sweet, rich, creamy interior. Definitely coming back for this! Maybe it is greener on the other side?

 

When life gives you lemons

Make lemonade? Or grab tequila and salt? Neither. Make soufflés instead. Much more satisfying, and so damn cute! These ones are cooked inside the lemons themselves, increasing the intensity of their lemon-ness just that little bit more.

I’ve always had a thing for lemons. That tart, sour tingle in your jaw, that feels so bad and so achingly good at the same time. They make the perfect dessert, because they take the edge off the sugar, so you don’t feel sickly sweet immediately afterwards. And did I mention how cute they are?

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The recipe is relatively long and precise (two stints at the stove, and whisking and beating for set periods of time) but the end result is completely worth it. You’ll feel like you’re eating fluffy little clouds of happiness. Each spoonful will bring you closer to heaven. Trust me.

ImageMy little army of lemon soldiers, sitting obediently in the oven, their chests puffing up with pride. To maximise soufflé height, I would recommend scraping the insides of the lemons until completely clean and smooth, then rubbing the walls with butter and dusting with sugar.

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ImageSome of them couldn’t handle the pressure, gave up and keeled over. I forgave them.

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…. And a ladybug just landed on my pillow, which I believe is a sign that I should go to sleep! Or just a coincidence. At any rate, my eyelids feel as heavy as concrete, so goodnight! Good luck with whatever lemons life hands you.

Just because.

Every now and then, we must confront the fact that there is no rational explanation for our behaviour. Why did I dream about being chased by a giant diaper-wearing pickle? Why does it feel like Saturday when it’s only Wednesday? Why am I fascinated by both the miniature and the gargantuan, but nothing in-between? Sometimes, trying to understand our own subconscious is more puzzling than a Rubik’s cube. This is precisely the position I found myself in earlier this afternoon, staring at a pile of Reese’s pieces and peanut M&Ms, wondering what on earth had possessed me to buy 10 packs of each. Earlier in the day, I had stumbled upon this curious recipe and I was instantly desperate to try it. So I raced home after class, dumped my bags and scooted off to Sainsbury’s to buy the ingredients. One hour later, a giant peanut butter cup cookie was staring back at me from the table, it’s M&M eyes blinking curiously. “Eat me!” it dared. And so I did. And it was delicious.

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The creation of this monster required nothing unusual or Frankenstein-esque. You probably have all of these ingredients sitting in your pantry right now: a stick of unsalted butter, one egg, one cup of brown sugar, vanilla extract, a third of a cup of peanut butter, one cup of flour, Reese’s peanut butter cups, peanut  M&Ms, and a pinch of salt. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and butter and flour a pie dish. Melt the butter in a large bowl in the microwave in 30 second bursts. Add the brown sugar, peanut butter, vanilla and the egg, making sure the mixture is cool before adding the egg. Whisk these ingredients together. Add flour and salt and stir until smooth and combined. Pour the batter into the pie dish and once it’s flat and settled, carefully place the peanut butter cups and peanut M&Ms into the batter, pressing gently. Don’t press them all the way to the bottom of the pie dish, otherwise they’ll drown in the mixture whilst cooking. Bake for about half an hour.

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So next time you feel an irrational urge to cook a giant peanut butter cookie pie, don’t question it or waste time trying to explain it. Just go for it.