Caramel, Banana & Walnut Parfaits

 parfait 

It was my parents’ 25th Wedding Anniversary a little over a month ago! Exciting stuff, right? 25 years! <3

So I guess that would make this their “Silver” Wedding Anniversary. Overcome with curiosity while writing this post, I decided to look up what each year represents, since all I really remember is Silver for 25 years and Gold for 50 years.

Thanks to my good friend The Internet, I am now quite well-versed in the appropriate gifts for each year of marriage. According to Wikipedia, the first year of marriage denotes a gift of paper (U.S.) or cotton (U.K.) Personally I’d be pretty happy with a gift of paper… I’m a designer so paper fascinates me, especially if it has a really nice texture and I can just sit there feeling it all day long. Of course there is also a section for “suggested modern gifts” like clocks and silverware, for people who are not as passionate about paper as I.

Though the list refers to gifts that the couple gives each other, I enjoy the idea of gifting my parents with something on their special day. Most of the time, it’s a home-cooked two or three course meal for them. Back in 2012, my brother and I whipped up a grand feast: Broadbean & Pecorino Salad, Homemade Pumpkin Gnocchi (as in, I made the actual pieces of gnocchi myself rather than just buying a packet… fun times!) and some sort of tropical fruit pudding for dessert. This took basically the entire day to prepare but needless to say it was a delicious lunch and they quite liked it, even though the gnocchi tasted a bit doughy.

This year, we didn’t really have an entire day to prepare as we were out during the day. But I managed to scrape together a bit of time and creativity to make individual Caramel, Walnut & Banana Parfaits for dessert!

I essentially just made it up as I went along; Greek yoghurt and cream cheese, sliced banana, cinnamon… and this stuff:

caramel

I bought this earlier in the year whilst on a family holiday in Melbourne. We went strawberry picking at Sunny Ridge Farms and I picked this up in the gift shop. Even though it had nothing to do with strawberries I decided that it looked quite interesting, and I’d never heard of “Hazelnut Milk Jam” before… but basically it’s like caramel. So I brought it home and kind of just left it there, waiting for a worthy occasion to use it. Of course the likelihood of you owning this exact same jar is probably quite low, so you can probably just use any pre-made caramel or even make your own! Be creative! You can even add more layers like crushed biscuit crumbs, berries, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Once these parfaits have been refrigerated the banana flavor kind of permeates everything else a little (so if you’re planning to make this, hopefully you like bananas). They’re not sickly sweet and I can probably get away with saying they are even a bit on the “healthy” side. You can probably add sugar, honey or extra caramel if you wanted them sweeter.

Banana Caramel Walnut Parfaits

1 ½ cups Greek yoghurt
50g cream cheese
5-7 tablespoons Caramel
2 tbsp walnuts, crushed
½ tsp/ cinnamon
Extra caramel for drizzling on top
Extra walnuts for sprinkling
1 small banana, sliced

Beat the Greek yoghurt and cream cheese together until smooth, then stir in the caramel and cinnamon until combined.

Spoon a small amount of the mixture into four individual tall glasses, then top with a few slices of banana and a sprinkling of crushed walnuts (divide about a tablespoon amongst the glasses). Top with more of the yoghurt mixture, a few more slices of banana and the other tablespoon of walnuts. Finally, top with the remainder of the yoghurt mixture, the extra walnuts and a drizzle of extra caramel.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving and enjoy!

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Nutella Swirl Vanilla Cupcakes with Nutella Cream Cheese frosting

Hi everyone! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Let me tell you, these past few weeks have been a little on the crazy side, but now that all the madness is over, I can finally say that I’m no longer a student!

Yes, that’s right, I’ve finished my graphic design course at last. I’m in the “real world” now and to be honest it’s a bit terrifying. Like, it’s not just my “holiday” break right now, a time that I can spend lazing about, watching movies, playing The Sims ‘til 3am and baking cookies all day long. This is my life now. I have to apply for jobs and be a grown-up.

So, I went on a job-applying-spree the other night, and had my first interview on Wednesday! It was for an unpaid internship, but experience is experience. I threw on my brand new pair of what I call my “job interview shoes” (sensible, black high-heels, which are actually more reminiscent of an old lady’s Church shoes than a pair of sexy businesswoman shoes, but shhh, no-one has to know that), a dress I’d bought the other week, and a smart cropped blazer. I felt like a savvy, sophisticated businesswomen, at least until the shoes started painfully digging in to the back of my ankles (ouch ouch OUCH) as I limped my way back home… then I felt more like a child playing dress-up. :P

That’s been my life lately, I just thought I’d give a bit of an update. I don’t know, do you guys enjoy reading blogs where the writer gives little insights into what’s happening in their personal lives (nothing too personal, don’t worry, I’ll keep my shower-stories and other private things to myself), or have you been skimming through these paragraphs whilst thinking, “Gosh darn it, get yourself back in the kitchen, woman! I want me some cakes, just get to the recipe already!”

Well if you identify as the latter option, don’t you fret! Cakes are coming. I’ve got a few different recipes up my sleeves; different things I’ve baked in the past few weeks. I baked Hot Cross Buns for the first time ever, then I baked them again, for the second time ever! It was my first time baking with yeast… exciting, no? That’s going to be the next post, though. Today I’m going to share something sweet and Nutella-packed, as a delicious apology for the neglect I’ve been showing you, my dear readers, lately (in fact, maybe it’s make up for all the times I’ve promised to post more and then neglected to do so… there is a lot of Nutella in these after all).

So I present to you…

Nutella-swirled vanilla cupcakes…

swirl

…with Nutella and Cream Cheese frosting!

done

Didn’t end up taking a proper shot with my SLR camera, so I hope you’re all okay with Instagram pics! If you’d like to follow me on Instagram my username is sarahwielgosz but be warned that I don’t only post baking pics, much of it will be selfies, my dogs, books I’m reading, cups of tea and just general weirdness… I’ll try to tag my food/baking pics with #sneakypudding so you can just search those up if you need a Sneaky Pudding fix. ;)

So here’s the story. Easter was a couple of weeks ago, remember? If you chowed down on enough chocolate and ended up in a sugar coma, your memory might be a little fuzzy, but I assure you, Easter most definitely happened. Anyway, a bit before Easter, we got a packet of these candy-coated Easter eggs so I could back something Easter-themed… but as I ended up baking a batch of Hot Cross Buns on Easter Sunday itself, I figured I should use up the candy eggs by the Sunday after, because it feels weird to eat Easter stuff when more than a week’s gone by since the special day. We also had a jar of Nutella in the cupboard, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t eat Nutella with normal meals or snacks; it’s most definitely a treat/indulgence.

I decided to use up both in the one go, by whipping up these delectable cupcakes! The icing, by the way, is amazing. Way too amazing. There was some left over and for the next few days, I would occasionally indulge in a sneaky teaspoon or two as “dessert”. Hey, I was stressed out with assignments, okay? Chocolate helps. Oh, and fun fact, it was my first time successfully using a piping bag! Go me!

Here’s the recipe. Left-over candy-coated Easter eggs optional, of course. Personally, I think topping each one with a strawberry would be a good decision too. Whatever floats your boat!

Nutella-Swirled Cupcakes

80g butter, softened
½ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup self-raising flour
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons of Nutella, approximately

ICING:

1 cup Nutella
225g Cream Cheese
1/3 cup icing sugar, approximately

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add the egg and vanilla and stir until well-combined.
Sift in the flour and salt, and add the milk. Stir until well-combined (don’t overmix!)

Evenly distribute the batter amongst the cupcake liners. Using a knife or skewer, swirl small amounts of Nutella into each cupcake to create a marbled effect. (if your Nutella is a bit solid, you might want to microwave it for a little to melt it, just to make this task easier).

Bake for 18-20 minutes in the oven, until the cupcakes are well-risen and spring back lightly when touched. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin before transferring to a wire rack.

For the icing, combine the Nutella and Cream Cheese in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and well-combined. Add the icing sugar and continue to mix until combined (you can adjust the amount of icing sugar if you’d like, adding less or more depending on how sweet/thick you want the icing… I find the icing sweet enough without it, but added some to make it thicker and easier to work with).

If the icing is a bit runny, place it in the fridge for about half an hour; this will make it easier to decorate the cupcakes.

When you’re happy with the consistency of the icing, use either a piping bag or a knife to spread it on the cooled cupcakes. Top them with whatever decorative element you wish (or leave them plain if that’s your thing) and enjoy!

Carrot “Angel Wing” Cupcakes

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I cannot believe there’s less than a week until Christmas! It’s come up so fast. Time has just flown by. I’m super excited, of course. I love Christmas! Wrapping presents, singing carols, baking…

Ah, yes. Baking. Oh the many delicious treats I love to conjure up during the festive season! Gingerbread cookies shaped like little stars and Christmas trees, buttery shortbread that melts in your mouth, fruit mince pies (which I’ve never actually made… but I like eating them!)
Unfortunately, I’ve hardly had any time to bake. Story of my life, right? I never have time to bake. Yet I somehow run a baking blog. Weird.

I really didn’t want the Christmas season to whiz by without a good amount of delightfully festive treats popping out of my oven. Just tonight I started baking some “Pepparkakor” – a Swedish recipe that I actually got from a Kikki.K catalog (blog post coming soon, I promise!) But while the dough rests in the fridge overnight, I figured I’d share with you a recipe I’ve been making for the past few Christmases which is always a big hit.

So, for the past few years, I’ve whipped up a batch of Carrot Cupcakes to share with my extended family during our annual Christmas gathering. They’re fairly quick and easy, they taste delightful, and your arm gets a good workout grating up the carrots, burning off all those pesky Christmas calories in advance.

Last year, in the spirit of the season, I decided that rather than icing them like regular old cupcakes, I’d make them into “angel wing” cupcakes. I love doing this with cupcakes – it looks so pretty, yet it’s the easiest thing ever – just slice off the top, cut it in half, drop a generous glob of icing onto the cupcake and stick the “wings” on top. And don’t forget to dust them with icing sugar for the whole “fake snow” look!

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Carrot Cupcakes

½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup olive oil
½ cup golden syrup
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup self-raising flour
½ cup plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup walnuts or pecans (optional)
250-300g grated carrots

ICING:
250g spreadable cream cheese
½ cup icing sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake liners (if you wish, you may want to get a second tray and add two or three extra liners if you’d prefer smaller cupcakes)
Place brown sugar, oil, eggs, golden syrup and vanilla in a large bowl, and whisk to combine.
Sift flours, bicarbonate soda, and cinnamon over the top and fold through. Add grated carrot (and nuts if using) and stir to combine.
Pour mixture into the muffin tray. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked (the tops of the cupcakes should spring back lightly).
To make the icing, simply place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
When the cupcakes are cooled, carefully slice a circle off the top of each one, and cut each circle in half. Place a spoonful of the icing into each cupcake, then top with two of the halves as “wings”.
Before serving, dust with icing sugar.
Makes 12-15 cupcakes.

Dark Choc Chip Sticky Date Pudding

StickyDate
Lately, I haven’t been cooking as much as I’d like to. True, I found time to bake, but actually cooking – as in, cooking a meal for dinner and having everyone sit around the table and eat – is something that just hasn’t made itself a priority. I suppose baking is easier – generally all the ingredients are already in the pantry and nothing needs to be bought fresh, and the final product can be kept for at least a few days and eaten at one’s leisure or shared amongst friends and relatives.
But this past Friday several weeks ago when I actually wrote this post, there was a little window of opportunity – I had the day off, everyone was going to be home and I’d invited a special someone over to hang out… so I thought, hey, let’s cook!
Now, a little random fact about me… when I cook dinner, I like to go all out. I’m talking 5 courses, expensive wine, candles, formal wear, a live orchestra performing in the background… okay, not really, but I do like to at least make some dessert afterwards to round off the meal nicely.
For the main course, I decided to whip up some gnocchi (not homemade, just from a packet, because I was feeling like a bit of a lazy bum that day, although I did once make homemade gnocchi which was quite nice) with a pesto sauce (which I’m proud to say was homemade and quite delicious!)
Of course, with Sneaky Pudding being a “blog of sweetness”, the star of the show (er, the post) is the Dark Choc Chip Sticky Date Pudding!
It’s sort of a combination of a couple of recipes I found online, plus my own little additions. Initially, I was going for this recipe on the Cadbury Kitchen website… the idea of adding dark choc chips to a sticky date pudding sounded absolutely delish! However, the recipe required a square cake pan (which I did not have) and for the pudding to be cooled completely before serving (meaning I’d have to make it earlier in the afternoon, which I didn’t have much time for) so I went for a search and found this recipe from taste.com.au which was in the format I was searching for.
This pudding is absolutely freaking amazing. I absolutely love dates, even though some people think they resemble cockroaches (I guess they do, in a way) … I call them “nature’s candy” because to me they seriously taste like caramel! The addition of the choc chips to the pudding gives it a nice twist, especially when served warm because they melt, and the walnuts add an occasional satisfying crunch. It’s also quite delicious when eaten cold the next evening (yes, I ate dessert two days in a row… shhh)

Dark Choc Chip Sticky Date Pudding

250g chopped, pitted dates
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 and 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup brown sugar
125g butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon rum essence
2 eggs
1 and 3/4 cups self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 cup walnuts
1/3 cup dark choc chips

SAUCE:
100g butter
1 cup brown sugar
250g spreadable cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

Place chopped dates in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Stir in bicarbonate of soda. Leave for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line base and sides of a cake tin with baking paper. Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and rum essence together until light and creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
Pour in the date mixture and sift in flour and spices. Add walnuts and choc chips. Stir the mixture until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let sit in tin for about 5 minutes before turning out (upside down) onto a place.
Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until sauce comes to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes.
Poke the surface of the pudding all over with a skewer, and pour half of the sauce mixture over the top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Cut into slices and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.