Chocolate & Stout Easter Cupcakes

Happy belated Easter to all of  my readers!

Another holiday, another illness. I mentioned after Christmas that I had done no baking or even cooking over the Christmas break, due to the #virusfromhell that had me in bed for much of the holiday season. Sure enough, midway through my conference last week, I came down with a cold. Seems to be an end-of-term pattern here. It’s lingering. BUT, fortunately, so far at least it hasn’t stopped me much from being in the kitchen. As mentioned previously, I love spending as much time as possible cooking when I am back in London in my own kitchen.

Yesterday morning I got up early and made these cupcakes. H and I usually do a treat hunt/exchange every year but this year neither of us could face paying £10+ for an overpriced and overpackaged grocery store chocolate egg. Instead I made these cupcakes for him and he bought me some of my favourite non-Easter and non-marked up regular chocolate.

I couldn’t find a chocolate stout cupcake recipe in any of my cookbooks so turned to the internet. The recipe I ended up using called for oat flour. I improvised and used half oat flour (I just ground up oats) and half plain. The result is that these have a consistency that are more muffin-like and not the smooth texture of a cupcake — not a problem for me but may be an issue for others who want to make this. I also cut the sugar in half.  I used Guinness due to lack of choice, but there’s a lot of scope to try other more specialized, flavoured stouts.

Since I’m not fond of cream cheese icings, I planned on a mascarpone one; in the end, I couldn’t find any mascarpone in the tiny shop I was in, so settled for regular whipped cream, which in my view worked perfectly fine. These don’t look as polished as a typical cupcake but they hit the spot and were fun to make (the best part was of course putting the Mini Eggs on top!).




Masstown Market Cinnamon Rolls

Masstown Market is a grocery store/restaurant/bakery/gift shop not too far from where I grew up in Nova Scotia. Over the years it has expanded to a one-stop shop for whatever you might need — it’s hard to drive by without stopping. So, when I saw their cinnamon rolls on the Taste of Nova Scotia website (a great resource for all things food+NS), I knew I had to try making them myself.

The verdict: they were tasty (though if/when I make them again I will cut the sugar as they were a little on the sweet side for me), but there was something not quite right about their texture. I always think of cinnamon rolls as fairly soft but these had a harder outer edge. My hunch is that they were overbaked, even though they were in for less than the 20-25 minutes the recipe recommended (I have written many times before about our oven — that it’s hotter than what the temperature is set to — so I am extra careful, but it seemed these needed much less time). If not, it’s something else that I haven’t worked out. Maybe the flour? I followed the recipe exactly, with one exception: I didn’t quite have the full 1/2 cup of powdered milk, so ended up using slightly less. If anyone has any ideas please let me know!

So, the quest continues for the perfect soft cinnamon roll. On the plus side, at least they look more appetizing than my first batch of cinnamon buns!

cinnamon rolls



Rum Banana Bread

Happy New Year, readers! 2018 is upon us and so is another year of cooking and baking. My 2017 ended with both a bang and a whimper: I spent the second half of December in bed struck down by, I’m not kidding you, the worst virus I’ve ever had. It came on on Tuesday 12th and the first day I woke up with no symptoms was the 31st. Horrible. But now to the good news: on the 27th, H. proposed! We’re now engaged. 🙂 I definitely call that a good ending to the year.

For the first time in recent memory, I did NO holiday baking or even cooking. My mum’s family gathered together this year and I did hardly anything, I was feeling so bad. This banana bread is the only thing I made over the entire holiday season.

We had some bananas that really needed to be used up, and I had everything on hand at my grandfather’s where I was staying. I usually make Tessa Kiros’ banana bread, but used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen this time. Though whisky is my favourite spirit, I decided to go full Nova Scotian and use rum. It also just so happened I also need to bring dessert to our NYE soiree. I wouldn’t normally bring banana bread as a dessert but I figured homemade is always preferable so decided on bringing it.

This couldn’t be any easier to throw together — it’s a one-bowl, no mixer needed kind of banana bread. I followed the recipe very closely, and it turned out well: moist and delicious, not too sweet. We served it with some whipped cream and ate it with my aunt and uncle after our decadent NYE prime rib roast and lots of wine!

Regrettably, I do not have a photo of the banana bread, so you’ll have to use your imagination. I will however leave you with this picture of a beautiful winter Nova Scotian sunrise (a green, but cold one– the snow came a few days later).


Pork, Tomato, & Feta “Baklava”

As I have mentioned several times before, I don’t do nearly as much cooking as I once did, now that I am living in two places. An exception to this came recently when I decided to make this “baklava,” from a recent edition of delicious magazine (it is a Sabrina Ghayour recipe, previously featured on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen which is where I have linked the recipe from). This is definitely a weekend project — preferably a cozy Saturday with a glass of wine, the paper, and some nice background music.

Although this dish takes a lot of time, it is not at all difficult and there is very little “fuss” involved. The most difficult part is assembling it, but even that is very easy. So, don’t be put off — what this requires most of all is time, not effort.

I bought a lovely pork shoulder at our local butcher — I have to admit that it was a bit unfortunate to cook it and then not just eat it right away and bury it in the baklava. Next time I buy it I’m not doing anything to it!

The recipe called for fennel, which I left out because I don’t like the taste if it. I think it’s complex enough without it though. The end result looks impressive and was really tasty — the honey means it has a tiny taste of sweetness. My only bugbear was that the sauce ended up a touch dry for me.



Zucchini, Cheddar, & Parmesan Scones

I’ve been trying to write this post for well over a month now. It is an end of summer recipe and we’re deep into fall. Nonetheless, I’ve been determined to post it, simply because these are so good.

The recipe comes from the summer edition of Bon Appetit magazine (note that the url is from a different website but the recipe is the same), though the scones originate from Flora Bar in New York. It’s actually a recipe for Gruyere and zucchini scones: I bought Gruyere but then … oops… ended up eating it all before I got around to making this — confessions of a cheese addict. Instead, I improvised and used cheddar and Parmesan.

After so many years of food blogging you start to run out of ways to describe good food. These are, quite simply, really really good. Delicious, melt-in-your mouth scones. It’s one of the best recipes I’ve tried in a while. The zucchini keeps them moist, yet the melted cheese makes them a bit crispy. They’re not difficult to make and look impressive, so would be a great brunch dish or side. Warm, with a bit of butter — these are perfection.

Baking with Wild Blueberries

wild blue

As I have said many times before, one of my favourite things to do back home in Nova Scotia in the summertime is pick wild blueberries. This year there was a huge crop, and lots of family around, and I took advantage by baking as much as I could — not the easiest thing to fit into our jam-packed schedule!

The first thing I made was this lemon and blueberry loaf. I chose this recipe largely because the milk-based ingredients were minimal — my sister was visiting and she cannot eat dairy products. I used coconut yogurt instead of real yogurt, and used about two-thirds of the sugar called for, but otherwise followed the recipe closely. It turned out really well — the loaf was really moist and stayed that way for quite a few days. It was also very lemony.

lemon loaf 1

Then for dessert one night I tried my hand at blueberry grunt, which is a traditional Nova Scotia dish. I didn’t really follow one recipe — I was inspired by this one in Saveur and a recipe I found in a Nova Scotia cookbook. I was a bit nervous because I’d never made it before and was cooking for a crowd. Again, I adapted it so my sister could eat it, using soy milk and margarine. Although guests raved about it, I thought it was just okay. I needed to use more blueberries (there were 7 of us) — there is a sweet spot between cooking them down too much and a rich ‘sauce.’ The biscuits, for me, were missing something. I’m not sure if that is because of the substitutions or something else. I will just have to try again next year to find out!


The final thing I made was blueberry buttermilk muffins, following this recipe closely. I used buttermilk as my sister had left by then! These couldn’t have been easier to throw together, and were delicious.


Chocolate & Coffee Cheesecake

Every year I try to make/bake H. something for his birthday, since he has a huge sweet tooth. 🙂 This year happened to be the first time that we weren’t together on the actual day (and the same will happen for mine, coming up soon!). As he is a huge cheesecake fan I decided to make this one a couple of days before I left for Scotland for a conference. Aside from cheesecake, coffee and chocolate are two of H.’s favourite things. 😉

I only made a couple of modifications to the recipe. Instead of 250g cream cheese, I used about 150g and substituted quark for the rest, which made for a slightly lighter cake. I also forgot to dust with cocoa powder, so mine looks shiny compared to the magazine’s photo.

This is a fairly simple but delicious cake. My only complaint is that it did not taste enough like coffee; if I make it again I will increase the quantity of coffee quite a bit.

coffee choc cheesecake

Venison Sausage Rolls

H. and I have done very little entertaining this fall, which is unusual for us. Looking back, I think we had more people over last fall, which was one of the most hellish periods ever since beginning my PhD! However, this past Friday we had our good friends S. & C. over for supper. It was a very relaxed evening — all four of us had some kind of work Christmas party during the week, so I wanted it to be a low-key and fun meal.

Keeping it simple, I made a pasta bake and salad for the main. For an appetizer I wanted to try something new. I decided on sausage rolls, which I had been wanting to make for a while (I also made this cheesy bacon holiday crack — never said it was going to be a healthy evening!). I used venison — more on this decision below — and the recipe in Best Recipes Ever, the collaboration between the CBC and Canadian Living (sidenote: an underrated cookbook, I believe. I really like it!).

Using pre-made puff pastry these are not difficult to throw together, nor are they as finicky as one might expect. The most difficult part is probably getting the sausage out of the casings; if you can buy sausage meat on its own, I would recommend that. The tip to put the rolls in the freezer before cutting them is a good one as it makes it much easier to slice them.

I knew my rolls wouldn’t be as succulent or as rich as if I had used pork. However, I wanted to give these a go as I had great meat from the market. Plus, venison is healthy and sustainable. The rolls were still good, in my opinion, though obviously on the leaner side. They weren’t dry (the all-butter pastry helps!). Personally, next time I will up the Dijon a bit (1.5 tbsp) and add in a little more salt and pepper, but for a first attempt I was pleased at how they turned out. They were gobbled up very quickly!

This was my first foray into the sausage roll world — one that allows for infinite possibilities — so I will report back on any future experiments!


Umami Apple Pie

Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol’s The Flavour Principle is one of my favourite cookbooks. I love the way it is organized according to taste. This pie appears, as you might be able to guess from the title, in the umami section. Translated from the Japanese as delicious essence, umami is used to describe tastes that are deep, savoury, often ‘meaty’ flavour such as those in Parmesan, prosciutto, and soy sauce.

Onto the pie. It’s been a long time since I have made pie crust, but since this recipe calls for a special ingredient — cheddar cheese — to be added, I had to make it from scratch. And, surprisingly, it turned out well! (Much better than last time!)

I followed the recipe quite closely, using a mix of apples, although found that I had too much of the mixture after cooking them (this was also because I used a slightly smaller pie dish). I did find that the top browned too quickly so covered it with baking paper as Lucy suggests.

I was really pleased with this pie. The cheddar taste is milder than you might think, and delicious. Perfect fall comfort food.


Pear Cake with Chai-Spiced Buttercream & Salted Caramel

Fall is here! The leaves are starting to change, the nights are closing in earlier and earlier, and days are feeling crisp and cooler. I love this time of year.

I have been itching to get back to cooking and sharing. In the first half of September, eating was about survival. There was no innovation or fun dishes, I just wanted to get something on the table. It was some of the most stressful times of my entire career. But, I’m on the other side now: I successfully defended my PhD thesis and am now Dr. saturdayedition! There might be an upcoming post with more reflections on this new stage of my career….or there might not be!

I’m now 10 days post-defense, but just starting to come out of my cocoon. I had (have) a huge “post-viva” (defense) to-do list that I will be working my way through for months. However, with a slightly less crazy schedule now, I hope to be cooking a lot of new dishes this fall.

I’m starting with this cake.

It caught my eye in the September edition of delicious magazine. The recipe comes from Edd Kimber, the winner of the inaugural season of the Great British Bake Off (RIP). The is very much a multi-stage cake. It’s not one that you mix up in one bowl and then forget about in the oven. No, there is lots to do: make the chai butter (hindsight: not worth it), make the salted caramel, simmer the pears, make the batter, bake the cake, cool it, make the icing, and decorate it. Whew. I made it over a 5-hour period (and the magazine says 40 mins hands-on time! Ha).

I  had a bit of a disaster moment when I heated up the caramel and didn’t let it cool down enough before I started drizzling it over the cake — it melted some of the buttercream. Luckily I avoided any true disasters and put it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up again.

I’d rate this cake a 6/10: the icing was too sickly sweet for me and overall I found it a touch too much work. I don’t think the extra step of making chai butter was really evident in the taste. Also, despite cutting about 1/3 of the sugar in the icing, I found it too overpowering for me, though the taste of the base is quite good.

As usual, I’m often quite hard on things I made. I gave half of this cake to my friend/neighbour, D., and her husband and they seemed to love it (or were very polite!), and H. liked it too.

Delicious is no longer posting their recipes in real time, which is a shame. If anyone would like the recipe please let me know and I will take a photo of it for you!

Apologies for the shocking quality of this pic!
Apologies for the shocking quality of this pic!