Monday, 12 November 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me!

Yes, I'm another year older and to celebrate my Family gave me this......

And I thought I couldn't have loved my Kitchen Aid more, turns out I was wrong.  I couldn't wait to try it out so I promptly whipped up a batch of Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.  Now I'm an Ice Cream novice so I didn't have a recipe of my own.  I used this Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe from David Lebovitz.  What can I say, it was perfect and I wouldn't change a thing about it.  Thumbs up from the rest of the Okanay team as well.

To make the Ice Cream I had purchased some Vanilla Beans and had one left over as well as the used bean from my ice cream.  So I've decided to make my own Vanilla Extract.  Considering how simple it is to make along with the fact that many of the "vanilla extract" products out there contain little to no actual vanilla beans and can contain a host of other unnecessary ingredients, I thought it would be a nice thing to have around the house.  And whats more, once the solution is ready all you have to do is top it up with more vanilla beans and alcohol and you'll have a never ending supply.

If you fancy having a go at making your own vanilla extract here are the steps I followed.  I'll post some updated pics of mine as it matures (it takes about 2 months before it's ready).

You'll need:

1or 2 Vanilla Beans to every 236 ml (1 cup) of alchol
A clean jar to keep it in

You can use any alchol, but vodka is the one most commonly used.  Brandy is another popular choice. I've used Vodka for mine.

To start off you'll need to sterilise your container and lid in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.  

Once boiled (and cool enough to handle) you can fill your container with alcohol.  I've used an old jam jar and added 236 ml Vodka to my jar.  

Next split the bean to expose the seed inside and place the bean in the jar.  

Tighten the lid on the jar and give it a good shake.

Place in a dark cool cupboard.  Take out once a week and give it a shake.  It should be ready to use in 2 months time.   Again, I'll post photos as mine matures as well as the finished product when it's ready in January :)  

Friday, 9 November 2012

Smores Cupcakes

It's a Graham Cracker cupcake, topped with marshmallow fluff and drizzled in milk chocolate.  What "Smore" do you need to know?  Oh, except how to make one yourself.  Here you go....


115g (1 1/2 cups) graham cracker crumbs
57g (3/4 cups) all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
125g (1 /2 cup) butter
200g (3/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
175 ml (3/4 cup) whole milk

For the topping:
1 jar of Marshmallow Fluff
Milk Chocolate


Preheat Oven to 175C / 350F / Gas Mark 4

In a bowl, whisk together graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar and beat on high speed until very light and fluffy.  The mixture should look almost like whipped cream.  I have a stand mixer and this takes approx 5 minutes with my mixer.

In a cup, combine the eggs and vanilla and whisk together.  Reduce the speed to low and add the egg mixture slowly just a bit at a time.

By hand, stir in flour and milk.  Start with 1/3 of the flour, then 1/2 milk, then 1/3 flour, etc.  Stiring each time just until combined.  You want to keep the mixture light and airy.

Spoon into your baking cases and bake for 20 minutes.

Cool completely then top with Marshmallow Fluff and Melted Milk Chocolate to serve.

Homemade "Honey Grahams" Graham Crackers

For those of you who may be unfamilar, below is a picture of a traditional Graham Cracker.  Don't let the word "cracker" fool you.  They are sweet and taste more similar to a biscuit, but have the crisp texture of a cracker.  I've heard lots of people compare them to Digestive Biscuits when it comes to baking.  Personally I think the only thing they have in common with a Digestive Biscuit is they are both commonly crushed up and used as a pie crust.  Graham Crackers have their own distinct and lovely flavour which is nothing like a Digestive.

This week I was given the task to produce some bakes for the my daughters School bakesale.  An obvious opportunity to try something different.  I decided to make some Smores Cupcakes.  More about that on another post, but in order to make them I first had to have some Graham Crackers.  Graham Crackers are not commonly sold in the UK unless you go to a specialist store that sells USA Grocery items, like Selfridges or the Stateside Candy Company.  

Rather than order them I decided to make them.  They came out so nice that I reserved a few (rather than crush them all up) to give to the bake sell in their own right.  

Fancy making your own homemade Honey Gram Graham Crackers?  Here's how.......

340g (1 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
315g (1 1/3 cups) whole meal flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
250g (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
157g (2/3 cup) dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons honey
water (approx 5 tablespoons) 


1. In a bowl, whisk together all purpose flour, whole meal flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt and set aside.

2.  In a bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and honey and beat until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the flour mixture and mix on low just until blended and mixture comes together.  Mixture should not be dry, it should come together into a ball of dough.  If needed add water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is no longer dry and comes together.  Mine took approx 5 tablespoons of water, you may need more or less.  

3.  Cover dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 5 days.

4.  To bake.  Preheat oven to 175C /350F /Gas Mark 4.  Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to very thin, about 1/8 inch.  Traditionally these would be cut into rectangles or squares like the photo above, but I used a cookie cutter to cut mine.  Use your imagination, their your crackers :)   

5.  Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake approx 4 more minutes.  Keep an eye on them and take them out when they are golden and firm to the touch.  Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.  Can be stored in an airtight container for 5 days.


Tuesday, 6 November 2012


In Turkish they say Lokma 

in English I say Sticky Syrupy Yummy Doughnuts

My step-daughter first introduced me to Lokma.  They are a popular Turkish dessert.  Similar to doughnuts.  Perfect little fried doughballs soaked in syrup. If you need any further convincing that you should try these then we have nothing in common.  LOL.  Mmmmmmmm.

I tried 3 recipes before I got this right but once I did get the mixture right they where very easy to make.  Now mine are not perfect little round balls like you find in the patisserie.  I'll have to figure out how they do that and get back to you.  They are homemade and look it.  But the taste is spot on.


250g plain flour
6g dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt  
275 ml very warm water
oil for frying

For the Syrup
640g granulated sugar
300 ml water
juice of half a lemon


Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl.  Sift together.  Make a well in the middle and add the warm water.  Whisk by hand until the mixture is smooth.  It should be a runny consistency.  Cover with a clean towel and leave in a warm place for 1 hour or until the mixture has doubled in size.

While you are waiting for the dough to rise make the syrup.  Heat sugar and water in a saucepan just until boiling.  As soon as it starts to boil reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and add lemon juice.  Leave to cool.

Once your dough is ready (it will still look watery but will be risen and airy in consistency).  Heat some oil in a frying pan, not too much, it does not need to cover the lokmas, I used about 1 1/4 cups of oil in my pan.

The dough will be a little bit stick so you may find it helpful to grease your spoon first to help prevent sticking.  I also read somewhere to dip the spoon in water each time to help prevent sticking which does work but be careful as any water going into the pan will cause it the grease to pop at you.

I tried first to use a teaspoon but felt the doughballs where a bit too small, so I switched to a tablespoon and this is what I stayed with but felt they where a bit too large.  So what I would suggest and what I will do next time is still use the tablespoon but scoop up a bit less dough.   I know this is just me being overy analytical because I know what size the ones in the patisserie are, it probably doesn't really matter, they all taste the same.  So really you could just ignore me and do whatever you like :)

Moving on, drop spoonfulls of dough into the hot oil and fry turning as they cook until golden brown (about 1 minute).  They should puff up as they cook.  Remove onto a plate lined with a paper towel.

Once all cooked place doughballs into the cooled syrup and allow them to soak in the syrup for 5 to 10 minutes.  Transfer to serving dish and enjoy!

Happy Bonfire Night!