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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

White Chocolate Easter Candy Bark

We all know it. Bark is just a more delicious was to get candy from your hand to your mouth than the usual. It's very simple to make as well as a great way to practice tempering chocolate.

These barks are made with jelly beans and my favourite easter candy of all time, Mini Eggs! With Easter less than two weeks away, it's time to think starting of Easter treats! And there are few that could be easier to create than bark!
This recipe makes small portions. Each bark makes a great dessert for 2 or 3 people. The batches can be doubled or even tripled very easily! 

RECIPE & INGREDIENTS
  • 150 g good quality white chocolate
  • 60g Jelly beans or candy coated (mini) eggs
If making the Mini Egg Bark crush about half the mini eggs in a ziplock using the back of a measuring cup or rolling pin now.
Melt you chocolate over medium-low heat in a double boiler. When chocolate is half melted remove it from heat and stir continually until completely melted. 
If making the jelly bean bark add about half of them to the chocolate now. Pour onto parchment paper and spread out to be about 1/4" thick. 
Top the melted white chocolate with all mini eggs, or remaining jelly beans (or both!) and let stand for a few hours until hardened.
Break into manageable pieces and chow down!

*If the chocolate does not end up hardening, your house may be too warm, or you may not have properly tempered the chocolate. Either way pop it in the fridge and you'll be all good.



Friday, March 20, 2015

Best photo editing apps for Android - Round 2

This is a second instalment of a post I did when I first started Love of Sweeties (You can read that one here if you'd like!). I'm going to show you the photo editing apps I use to create my instagram photos as well as most of the photos you see on this blog. Yup, you probably don't know this about me/my blog, the majority of the photos I take for my blog are shot on my cell phone. 
Until this last week my cell phone was a Samsung Galaxy S3. I used it to take nearly all the photos on my blog since its existence.

Now I have a Galaxy S4 and plan on continuing to use it for blog photography. Why? Because it's so easy!!! I can take the photos, edit them, and upload them all from my phone. Then, when it comes time to write the blog post, I just have to sit down at the computer and write. 

We also own a Canon Power Shot SX30 IS, but it scares me a little still, it's not even a DSLR. Just a good quality Point and Shoot. I use it maybe 30% of the time for my food photography, and I usually use it for Wall Hanging product shots.

I know using camera phone photos isn't for everyone but I just can't give up the convenience and simplicity I get from my phone. The quality isn't as fantastic as a good quality camera, but for me, I don't notice a drop in quality all that much. And to be honest, because I'm not very skilled with my real camera for the time being I actually find the colours and image quality of my phone photos to be better than the ones I get from my Canon.
Let's get right into it!

AVIARY - Free with in-app purchases
I LOVE Aviary! My favourite photo app for sure. It's actually an Adobe product so you know it's going to be quality, and full of awesome features. 
I use Aviary to edit nearly every photo I use from my phone.
These are the main tools I use in this app:
  • Enhance: Sometimes colour fix is helpful sometimes it's better to leave it be.
  • Crop: for obvious reasons, it has many pre-determined ratios as well as free-form cropping
  • Lighting: Where I'll bring up the brightness, slightly increase the contrast and sometimes reduce shadows
  • Colour: I'll bump up the saturation, and on my S4 I've been finding I like to boost the warmth as well
  • Sharpness: Sometimes I'll need to bump this up a few notches. It add some clarity to images
  • Effects: Effects are the last thing I'll go to in my photo editing routine, and only about half the time. I'd defiantly say it's worth investing in some of the effects. My recommendations would be Foodie, Woodland, Layer Pro, Winder, and Wanderlust. For a dollar a piece you can't really go wrong. My biggest suggestion when using effects in Aviary is to scale them down. I'll often use 2-3 filers but only at around 10%-40% each to give my photos the brightness or tones I want.
 
VSCO CAM - Free with in-app purchases
it seems like everyone is using VSCO cam, and for good reason. It has some fantastic features and it's pretty straight forward to use. I don't really go into the filers too much.

I Mainly use these features:

  • Exposure: to increase the brightness on photos 1 or 2 notches
  • Contrast: again brightens up photos a little
  • Straighten: This is a really helpful tool for aligning photos that may have been a bit tilted. especially helpful for product photography
  • Sharpen: The sharpen tool on VSCO is fantastic, I prefer it to Aviary's. It get things really crisp without overdoing the contrast or making it grainy
  • Saturation: to enhance colours in a photo
  • Temperature & Tint: These are really handy tools. Temperature adjusts the warm tones in your photo while tint adjusts the cool tones. it's gives you more control beyond saturation.


PHONTO - Free
 Phonto is the best app for adding text to images! I use it for creating Pinnable images and I used to use it for all my good morning Monday posts. It's seriously the greatest.
It has a massive selection of fonts, you can adjust the size and colour of text easily and if you get a little deeper you can play with shadows, stroke, opacity, and curves, spacing. I'd recommend this to be on par with the website Pic Monkey if you're adding text to camera-phone images.


FOTOR - Free with in app purchases
I've only started using this app recently but it's great for creating clean and simple collages. Very straight forward, and fast. Exactly what I need. Something I really like about it is that you can access your instagram photos from the app, perfect for making recap collages! I also really like that it keeps all your images organized while you find the ones you need as opposed to putting them all into one image feed as many photo apps do.


INSTASIZE - Free app
This is the app I use to make non square photos instagram ready. Pretty straightforward and self-explanatory.

I hope you found this helpful and it gave you a bit of insight into my blog photography. Photo editing can be so much fun and a great way to pass time (whether you blog or not). Phone photography is also a great way to capture images for scrapbooking, or just printing out and putting memories around your house!
Give some of these apps a try and let me know what you think! And please tell me your favourite!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Paddy's Shortbread Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting

Happy st. Patrick's Day!!! I hope you're having a fun, green day. I hope you're wearing green somewhere, Your shirt? your socks? your nails? 
I hope you've already eaten something with green food dye it it, and and soon as you finish that Bailey's and coffee, I hope you're able to go to the nearest pub and get some beer in you. Or you know, maybe just go to work, it is Tuesday after all.

I hope these cookies are part of your St. Paddy's day! They're big plump sugar cookies that are reminiscent of shortbread because of how dense they are and how dry the crumb is. One of these will defiantly satisfy your sweet tooth! And we add buttercream because it is delicious, and green icing is more fun (and appetizing) than green cookies!

RECIPE & INGREDIENTS

SHORTBREAD SUGAR COOKIES
makes 20 large cookies - inspired by these Swig Sugar Cookies
  • 1 cup Butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tsp Vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cup White Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Icing Sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 tsp Cornstarch
  • 2 tsp Baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 5 Cups White flour
  • 1/2 cup Rice flour
Preheat your oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together butter, vegetable oil, sugar, water, and egg. Mix this until completely smooth, which may take a few minutes.
In a separate, large bowl, combine flours, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
With the mixer running on low, slowly add dry ingredients to butter mixture. The dough will get very stiff near the end but just keep going. I had to turn my mixer off and incorporate a bit by hand.
Roll dough into very large 80g balls (for reference, a bit small than a tennis ball? I don't know, as if I play tennis) and place on cookie sheet. Fit about 6 to a cookie sheet as they will spread a little. 
Using a flat bottomed mug or measuring cup, flatten each cookie out until it resists. This works great because it will keep every cookie the same thickness and they will all cook perfectly.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are barely browning on the bottom. You don't want to over-bake as they will be too crumbly.
Let stand for 5 minutes then move to a cooling rack. Frost when cool.

*Rice flour is what gives these cookies such a shortbread consistency, it really dries out the dough, leaving you with a firmer cookie!

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
  • 1 cup Salted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups Icing sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon Vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Heavy cream
  • 10-12 drops green food colouring (optional)
In the bowl on a stand mixer cream butter on medium-low speed until butter is completely smooth and creamy, this may take up to 3 or 4 minutes. Stop mixer and scrape down sides and paddle if you need to.
Add the vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.
Add 2 cups of the Icing sugar, mixing each cup until fully incorporated before adding the next. You may need to stop the mixer and scrape the bowl.
Add the heavy cream and mix until incorporated.
Add the last 2 cups of icing sugar, mixing each cup until incorporated before adding the next.
Add the food colouring and mix until the icing is all one shade of green.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Cream Puffs with Strawberry and Greek Yogurt Whipped Cream

I'm going to share something with you that no one's ever told you before. You may hate me for it. I totally understand. Here it goes, Cream Puffs are ridiculously easy to make. And you have every ingredient you need to make them right now. There, I've said it.

I always thought plump, airy cream puffs were a super labour intensive kitchen endeavour. I imagined spending hours slaving over cold butter, whipping egg whites to create mile-high little hollow mounds. The truth is, that this couldn't be further from the truth. I was uneducated in the puffs department.

Cream Puffs are so simple! Which I think makes them even more delicious, and endearing then ever before! This also means that you have some extra time to inject  more creativity into the fillings (see what I did there?). For this batch I went with a light strawberry whipped cream enriched with a healthy dollop of greek yogurt. Totally delicious. Totally worth eating 6 cream puffs in one day.

The only little tip I'd mention in this recipe is to watch the oven temperature adjustments, they're easy to do but easy to forget.

RECIPE & INGREDIENTS

CREAM PUFFS
Makes approx 12 Cream PuffsPuff Recipe from BakerBettie
  • 1/2 Cup water
  • 1/4 Cup butter
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
Start by preheating your oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small saucepan over medium heat combine butter, water, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and make sure butter completely melts.
Reduce heat slightly - medium low, and add the flour. Stir until mix forms a paste that holds together, leaving no dough on the sides.
Place dough in a bowl and allow to rest and cool for about 5 minutes.
Add in eggs, one at a time. Stirring vigorously between each egg so that they are fully incorporated. (You could also do with with a stand mixer on medium-low.) Dough should be glossy and silky when it's ready.
Add mixture to a ziplock and snip the corner, or a pastry bag and pipe onto your parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Create two inch mounds spaced about an inch or so apart. If you end up with any peaks on top of your puffs you can pat them down do they don't burn.
Put puffs in the oven and increase heat to 450F. bake for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350F and continue to bake for 13 more minutes. Shells will be nice and browned (and all blown up!).
Allow the puffs to cool on the counter top before you fill them.
Use a Piping bag with a metal piping tip to pierce and fill each cream puff from the bottom. They hold a surprising amount of whipped cream, so pipe until you feel the whipped cream resisting.

STRAWBERRY WHIPPED CREAM WITH GREEK YOGURT
  • 1 tsp gelatine
  • 4 tsp water 
  • 1 Cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 Cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Greek Yogurt - Plain or Strawberry
  • 4 heaping Tablespoons of pureed fresh, or defrosted frozen strawberries
In a small saucepan combine gelatine and water, allow to thicken. Then over low heat warm the mix until all the gelatine is dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly but don't let it set up.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, combine heavy cream and icing sugar, beat on medium speed until slightly thickened. slowly add the gelatine.
Increase speed and whip until the cream forms very still peaks.
Fold in strawberry puree and greek yogurt with a rubber spatula until completely combined. 
Pipe into your Cream Puffs.

*The filling can be made a couple days ahead and kept covered in the fridge. It may need to be re-whipped just before piping.
*Gelatine and water mixture can be omitted, but it helps to keep the whipped cream fluffy, and from going thin if these are not being served immediately.



Friday, March 13, 2015

Breakfast Cookies

I have a real thing for wanting to eat sweets at breakfast. But the sweets have to secretly be really healthy. Like these morning buns. Or grapefruit brulee.
These breakfast cookies are no exception. Not only are these healthy cookies but they're easy and only have a few ingredients!

On this particular day, I don't know how easily I can call them breakfast cookies. I made and ate them at 1 in the afternoon yesterday, but still for breakfast. What can I say, I'm home alone this week! I do what I want!

These cookies are basically portable baked oatmeals. They're simple and so easy to customize. If you had any on hand, I'd recommend adding in some chopped nuts or raisins, extra heartyness!

RECIPE & INGREDIENTS
Makes 6 large cookies.  Serves 3

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 cups of oats
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped baking dates - optional
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips - optional
Preheat your oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Smoosh the bananas with a fork. Stir in oats and cinnamon.
Then add your add-ins like chocolate chips and dates.
Spoon onto cookie sheet into 6 flat rounds.
Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Let cool for a few minutes then remove from baking pan.
Serve warm.



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