Monthly Archives: April 2011

And The Winner Is…


Varshini, that’s you! You’ve won a pretty bird’s nest necklace made personally by me! I hope you treasure it always as a token of Spring and a thank you for your kind comments about my blog.

Please email me at hotpolkadot (at) live (dot) com to claim your prize and give me your mailing address.

Congrats!

Feather The Nest.

Outside tiny birds fly distracted and twitterpated snatching up twigs and absconding with string to prepare nests in your eaves trough. Inside we feather our own nests with knick knacks, baubles and trinkets.

I’ve made my nests of airy threads of spun sugar atop pillows of velvety Caramel Buttercream crowning moist Vanilla Bean Cakes. An egg would be so lucky to hatch here!

Because It’s Spring again.

Because I had my first robin sighting of the year.

Because I’m on a sugar high.

Because I want you all to know how much I appreciate you.

I made you a little gift inspired by today’s cupcakes.

It’s a bird’s nest necklace made of twisted silver wire and shiny turquoise beads on a dainty cable chain. Made with love by yours truly so it can be Spring all year long.



How to Enter:

   1. Leave a comment here telling me about your favourite thing about Spring. Maybe it’s Easter dinner, the budding        gardens, the longer days or just the warm breeze. I’d love to know!
   2. Follow me on Twitter, tweet the contest (Visit @Hot_Polka_Dot to see some cute cupcakes & enter to win a pretty        bird’s nest necklace to keep Spring all year! http://bit.ly/h3w0DC) and leave another comment here telling me you’ve        done so.
   3. Like me on Facebook and leave even another comment here telling me you’ve done so.
   4. Become my friend on Foodbuzz and leave yet another comment here telling me you’ve done so.

Contest Details:

   – If you’re already following me on Twitter, liking me on Facebook, or my friend on Foodbuzz that’s ok! You’re entries still      count!
   – Only a maximum of four entries per person will be permitted in the ways I’ve designated above.
   – Anyone in the world is welcome to enter.
   – Upon winning please email me at hotpolkadot (at) live (dot) com to claim your prize and give me your mailing address      to receive the necklace.
   – All emails and addresses will be kept confidential.

Contest Deadline:

The contest will be open through the weekend and be closed on Monday April the 25th at 9pm MST. I will close the comments at this time so make sure to get your entries in soon! The winner will be chosen at random and announced Tuesday morning. Make sure to get in as many extra entries you can for a better chance to win!

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered! See who won here.



Caramel Bird’s Nest Cupcakes

Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes.

Source: My imagination.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 vanilla bean
3 1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tbsp water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 – 4 cup powdered sugar

Printer-Friendly Version

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line 2 muffin tins with baking cups and set them aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated. Split open the vanilla bean then scrape out all the seeds and add them to the bowl.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt then add it in thirds alternating between the milk and oil.

Divide the batter between the prepared muffin tins then bake them for 20 – 25 minutes until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer them to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before frosting.

Make the Caramel Buttercream while the cupcakes are baking. Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small sauce pan on medium high heat. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 6 – 7 minutes or until it turns a dark amber brown.

Remove it from the heat then very gradually add the cream and vanilla. Be careful not to add the cream too quickly as it will likely splatter or bubble. Set it aside until it’s cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat the butter until it’s fluffy and the colour is lightened. Mix in the powdered sugar then add the cooled caramel and blend it until it’s smooth.

Scoop the frosting into a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and generously frost each cupcake. To make roses start a spiral of frosting from the middle working your way to the outside.



Spun Sugar Nests

Makes 24 nests.

Source: Adapted from Sprinkle Bakes’ Maple Candied Apples.

1/4 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

24 – 72 Mini Eggs

In a large sauce pan combine the corn syrup, sugar and water then heat it on medium high heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring it to a boil until it reaches 302 degrees F on a candy thermometer. This is considered the hard crack stage which will allow the caramel to harden like glass when it cools. Once it reaches the proper temperature remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Fit a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of your empty sink and securely tape a greased wooden spoon to the counter with the handle hanging over the parchment. Set aside another sheet of parchment on the counter for the finished spun caramel nests. Working quickly grab caramel with two forks then let the threads of caramel fall back and forth over the handle. Once you have amassed enough spun sugar for one nest slide it off the handle and shape it into a small bird’s nest placing 1 – 3 Mini Eggs in it then set it aside on the parchment.

Set the spun sugar bird’s nests on top of the frosted cupcakes and enjoy!

And The Winner Is…


Roxanna from A Little Bit of Everything, you are the lucky winner of The New Food Processor Bible! You are going to have so much fun with this book. I promise!

Please email me at hotpolkadot (at) live (dot) com to claim your prize and give me your mailing address to receive the lovely cookbook.

Thank you to everyone else who entered!

Tuesday Tip: Wet Your Whistle.

Adding even a tablespoon of milk, water, liquor or fruit juice to frosting might seem useless but it actually improves the texture and makes it easier to pipe or stick to surfaces. Dry frosting can easily fall from where it’s placed like the side of a cake or a piped border.

A lot of people, including myself, have skipped this part of the recipe in order to keep the icing nice and thick, but don’t overcompensate and add too much. A little bit of liquid goes a long way!

Misty The Conqueror.

Don’t let that adorable face fool you. She might be comically chubby, covered in thick colourful fur and slow as molasses, but she’s a ninja just waiting for her moment to strike.

As cute as cats are they’re just as mean. Evil. Malicious. Diabolical even. Be rest assured they’re plotting to kill you in your sleep right now. And the best part is you know I’m right. How many times have you nearly tripped and fell walking down the stairs because sweet Spot decided to dart out of the darkness to weave between your legs? Or maybe Mittens thought it would be fun one night to pounce on your half covered feet just as you were dozing off. Perhaps little Fluffy became so entranced by your incessant blinking during a perfectly normal staring contest that she lunged at your eye lashes. Then you just turn around and pat their fuzzy little noggins while cooing sweet nothings.

Misty here is a swirling contradiction of good and evil. She’s an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in five pounds of fur. She was born feral, mean and ratty but she transformed into a squishy, lovable fuzzball. The only wildness that remains in her lies in her eyes, expressive and intent.

Normally Misty isn’t violent. She’s the biggest cat among the three and just as big of a coward. Poor Misty had some tree sap stuck in her fur so Lee and I, being the good masters that we are, went about removing it for her. Lee held her and I started trying to cut the sticky stuff out of her fur. She didn’t like that. In fact, sweet Misty disliked that so much, she freaked out, latched onto Lee’s bare arm and began clawing and biting it repeatedly. I guess the best defence is a good offence, right Misty?

Needless to say Misty still has sap in her fur and Lee’s arm is now covered in cuts.

I guess what I’m trying to say is after a long day filled with exciting and relentless cat attacks it’s just nice to sit down to a steaming plate of pasta. Nothing says I hope you don’t get a raging infection from those angry cat bites like Lemon Pesto Linguine.



Lemon Pesto Linguine

Makes about 5 – 6 servings.

Source: My imagination.

500g linguine

3 chicken breasts
2 tbsp salted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp parmesan, grated
Black pepper to taste
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp salted butter
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
2 tbsp lemon zest, finely diced
4 tbsp lemon juice

Note: I paired Focaccia bread with this meal.

Printer-Friendly Version

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and position a rack in the center.

In a large pot of simmering water cook the linguine al dente.

While the pasta is cooking heat a large skillet on medium high heat. Melt the 2 tbsp butter in the hot pan, season the chicken with the garlic, salt and pepper. Sear the chicken on each side then finish them off in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the juices fun clear.

In a food processor combine the basil leaves, garlic cloves, toasted pine nuts, parmesan, fresh ground black pepper and olive oil. Blend all the ingredients until there are no more chunks.

In a large pot on medium heat melt the 2 tbsp butter then whisk in the flour until you get a nice smooth paste or roux. Ad the cream and stir until it thickens and boils slightly. Blend in the pesto, lemon zest and juice.

Drain the al dente linguine then transfer it to the sauce pot and stir it to coat every noodle evenly. Plate the pasta, slice the chicken into strips and divide it among the plates. Enjoy!

The New Food Processor Bible.

   I must have been really good last year because I got a shiny new KitchenAid food processor for Christmas. I love it to pieces. If you’ve ever had a new kitchen toy you understand how exciting it is to switch it on for the first time. Your eyes light up, your face cracks into a smile from ear to ear and you jump for joy. Instant gratification. If you’re like me your always trying to come up with excuses to use it.

First I made pesto. That was awesome. Then I made more pesto. Even more awesome. Then I ran out of ideas.

I didn’t expect that, but I think I’ve figured out what the problem is. For years I’ve been just fine without a food processor and I’ve become accustom to doing everything by hand. Shredding cheese, chopping garlic, slicing potatoes, whisking eggs, etc. It’s like taking the long road for years then suddenly finding a shortcut only to get lost.

When The New Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz found me it all became clear. I realized what my food processor was actually capable of. Soups, fish, pastry, mousse, vegetables, chicken, marinades, dressings, breads, frosting, cookies and so much more. As if that isn’t enough there’s an entire section dedicated to proper use of your food processor with detailed dos and don’ts, techniques, the right blade for the job and even how to make food for picky eaters.

To exemplify the multitude of blissfully simple yet delicious recipes this book has to offer I made this Focaccia bread. It was quick, easy and flavourful. It was the first time I’ve ever tried my hand at Foccaccia and I can tell you it won’t be the last.

I can see a lot more fun with grinding, blending, shredding and chopping in my near future.

And in your near future I see you winning a copy of The New Food Processor Bible for your very own right here. That’s right, I’m psychic!


Continue reading

And The Winner Is…


Susan Smith of Readspace, you are the proud new owner of the shiny cookbook, A World of Cake! Lucky lady! Just think of all the lovely cakes you’re going to make between those glossy pages! Just try and love this book as much as I do! I dare you!

Please email me at hotpolkadot (at) live (dot) com to claim your prize and give me your mailing address so the cookbook can be shipped to you as soon as possible. Yay!

A World of Cake.

     I was fortunate enough to recently receive the lovely cookbook, A World of Cake by Krystina Castella. It’s quickly becoming one of my favourite cookbooks with its big beautiful photos and scores of recipes for, you guessed it, cake.

A World of Cake reads like a cherished family recipe book with a detailed story behind every recipe and how each has been adapted and passed down for generations. It reminds us that we’re all apart of a global family with traditions and cuisine that have been influenced by cultures all over the world. While flipping through it’s glossy pages you quickly realize how similar and unique we all are.

You get a glimpse inside the kitchens of Japan, Brazil, Germany, Kenya and nearly every other country you can think of. After a long browse I decided to make this Ugandan Peanut Cake with it’s intriguing combination of peanut, honey and cinnamon as an example of the multitude of incredible recipes you can discover in this book.

You want a copy? Sure you do!



How to Enter:

   1. Leave a comment here telling me about a worldly recipe you’ve tried or would like to try. It could be anything        between an appetizer, entree or dessert. I’d love to know!
   2. Follow me on Twitter, tweet the contest (Check out @Hot_Polka_Dot to enter for a chance to win A World of Cake        cookbook so you can make beautiful worldly cakes! http://bit.ly/gmMPAO) and leave another comment here telling me        you’ve done so.
   3. Like me on Facebook and leave even another comment here telling me you’ve done so.
   4. Become my friend on Foodbuzz and leave yet another comment here telling me you’ve done so.

Contest Details:

   – If you’re already following me on Twitter, liking me on Facebook, or my friend on Foodbuzz that’s ok! You’re entries still      count!
   – Only a maximum of four entries per person will be permitted in the ways I’ve designated above.
   – Anyone in the world is welcome to enter.
   – Upon winning please email me at hotpolkadot (at) live (dot) com to claim your prize and give me your mailing address      to receive the cookbook.
   – All emails and addresses will be kept confidential.

Contest Deadline:

The contest will be open through the weekend and be closed on Monday April the 11th at 9pm MST. I will close the comments at this time so make sure to get your entries in soon! The winner will be chosen at random and announced Tuesday morning. Make sure to get in as many extra entries you can for a better chance to win!

This giveaway is closed. Thank you to everyone who entered! See who won here.



Peanut Cake

Source: A World of Cake by Krystina Castella.

6 eggs
1 1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted and chopped

1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk

1 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted and chopped

Printer-Friendly Version

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Butter and flour 2 9 inch cake pans or spring form pans then set them aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat the eggs until they’re pale and thick. Mix in the honey, sugars, oil and vanilla.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt then add it to the egg mixture in thirds alternating with the milk. Lastly fold in the peanuts.

Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans and bake them for 35 – 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Leave them in the pans for 10 – 15 minutes them turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely before levelling them.

While the cakes are cooling make the peanut frosting. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together the butter, peanut butter, honey and salt. Alternate the addition of the powdered sugar and milk until you get a spreadable thick consistency.

Cut each cake in half and place the first layer on the cake plate. Spread an even layer of the peanut frosting between each layer then cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Evenly coat all sides of the cake with the chopped peanuts and enjoy!

Play.

All around is the sound of trickling water. Icicles shrinking and dripping. The wind blows as though breathing a long baited sigh of relief. The birds sing again. The sun burns red through closed eyelids and thaws the chill from the interminable Winter.

Spring is here. In case you didn’t know, Spring is my favourite season. It’s when Winter fades and slowly life begins again. Winter is like living on pause. Life is frozen in place. It’s time for play.

Speaking of which, I was playing with my original Banana Muffins recipe the other day and transformed it into Chocolate Banana Cinnamon Muffins. I think you’ll like it.



Chocolate Banana Cinnamon Muffins

Makes a dozen muffins.

Source: Adapted from my family recipe.

3 large bananas
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Printer-Friendly Version

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line a muffin tin with baking cups and set it aside.

To make your own tulip baking cups cut 2 – 3 inch squares of parchment paper and press them into the muffin tin. Whatever paper puckers up because of being pushed into the muffin tin crease with your fingernail so it keeps it’s shape.

In a large bowl mash the bananas with a fork then mix in the sugar, egg and butter.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder then lightly fold it into the banana mixture. The batter should be just moistened and still a little clumpy. Over mixing will produce short tough muffins.

Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups and bake them for about 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer them to a rack to cool and enjoy!