Ginger Cake with Poached Pears and Caramel Sauce

Ginger cake with poached pears and caramel sauce | Hello Victoria

Now, many people know Justin Gellatly for his doughnuts (I’ve used his recipe to make Paska and Rhubarb + Custard ones), but he makes something else just as good! Some may even say it’s better – I’m talking about his cracking ginger cake! Rich, moist, and very moreish. And if you pick up a copy of Justin Gellatly’s book Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding you can try his recipe yourself! Or just keep reading to make my slight adaptation.

You can bake this cake in a simple 9×9″ tin, and cut it into squares. Serve it warm, adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream – it’s the perfect end to a meal! Or, you can fancy it up a notch like I did here – baking it in two round tins to make a layered cake. I used a vanilla German buttercream between the layers (and a thin layer on the outside for a ‘naked cake’ look), then topped it with a caramel sauce, poached pears and some candied nuts.

Ginger cake with poached pears and caramel sauce | Hello Victoria

Now, I made this once before with the same amounts used in Justin’s original recipe – and found that it didn’t taste quite as strong as the cakes sold in Justin’s bakery (Bread Ahead). So this time, I increased the amount of chopped stem ginger, and ground spices. It’s such a great cake – sticky and full of ginger flavour.

Ginger cake with poached pears and caramel sauce | Hello Victoria

For the caramel sauce – I really wanted to use a recipe that only had a couple of ingredients. Caramel sauce isn’t complicated – just sugar and a fat (butter and/or cream) that has been heated to a specific temperature for the consistency you want. I adapted this recipe slightly, using a dry caramel (I can’t be bothered adding water only to then boil it away) to make a sauce with the right thickness to top a cake. Not too runny, but you can still get some nice drips on the edges. Of course I accidentally boiled it too long (distracted) and it was super thick, so I just thinned it a bit with some hot water! You could also add more cream instead. (more…)

DIY Snowy Pinecone Christmas Wreath

DIY snowy pinecone Christmas wreath | Hello Victoria

I’ve always loved making things at Christmas time. Whether it’s baking cookies, or making salt dough ornaments – Christmas for me always means creating something! And this year, my big craft was this winter wonderland wreath!

I actually made a pinecone wreath in the same way about 5-6 years ago when I was back in Canada. I had always intended to make it snowy, but chickened-out. See, I was worried that I was going to mess it up, and you can’t really go back once you start painting pinecones. It already looked nice just brown, so I ended up leaving it.

DIY snowy pinecone Christmas wreath | Hello Victoria

But this time, I was determined to get the snowy wreath I had pictured! And you know what? It turned out amazing!!!

I find that it’s rare when a craft turns out exactly as awesome as I intended it to be. I tend to have these grandiose ideas, which never execute quite as well as I hoped. I mean, they look good, just not exactly like my imagination. But not this wreath!! It’s almost better than I pictured it! But the bad part is that I have no where to store it!

DIY snowy pinecone Christmas wreath | Hello Victoria

I promised Richard (when I first started gathering pinecones) that we could throw it out at the end of the year (can you compost hot glue?!). But, now that it’s done… I am not sure I can bear the thought! Anyone else want to give it a home once Christmas is over?!

DIY pine cone wreath | Hello Victoria

Anyways, back to the tutorial!

This wreath is dead simple, and just takes time. It’s also super cheap if you can get a good deal on hot glue sticks (it used a ton!). (more…)

To Fringe or Not to Fringe: Debating Baby Bangs

Baby bangs inspiration | Hello Victoria

Amazing short fringe via

Okay… random post time! So a number of years back (actually, just after I met Richard) I got a fringe (bangs) for the first time since I was a little kid. I had just been traveling for over three months and wanted a drastic change. However, my stylist told me to get bangs first, and then if I still wanted to get a bob, I could come back in a couple months. Man, I miss him… he always gave such great haircuts… I digress…

Back to the fringe! For some reason, allllll the parents in the 80s decided little girls should have bangs, and so my sisters and I spent what felt like years growing them out once we got old enough. I remember clipping them to either side, and braiding them back. Other girls opted for butterfly clips (remember those?!) but I was a total tomboy. After all that agony growing them out, I hated the very idea of a fringe.

Should I get a fringe: Debating bangs | Hello Victoria

Man I love everything in this photo – it just screams early 90s!

Should I get a fringe: Debating bangs | Hello Victoria

For their sake, I blurred out my family – ha! Also, I love my faces in old family portraits – I could never just smile nicely.

But when I first got bangs again at the age of 19, I looooved them! They just gave me such a different look, and set off my cheekbones. However, my skin at that time was quite oily (something I’ve struggled with for years), and I would find that by 3pm they got all greasy, and I would have to wash them and dry them if I was going out that night.

So once my bangs started to become a bit long and get in my eyes, I decided to grow them out rather than trim them. I vowed never to get them again. (ha!) As you can imagine, about four years later I was bored with my hair, and missed my fringe. I remembered how cool it looked, and stylish. I remembered all the good stuff, and forgot the bad. So I got bangs again. (more…)

‘Pumpkin’ S’More Cupcakes – Made With Sweet Potato!

Sweet potato s'more cupcakes | Hello Victoria

One of the many things that is hard to find in the UK is pumpkin purée. Unlike in North America, where “pumpkin spice” is in practically everything come autumn (seriously – it’s insane), the UK doesn’t really do pumpkin desserts. Suuure, you can get a pumpkin spice latte now at Starbucks, but pumpkin desserts are a quintessentially North American thing. Which makes sense – no thanksgiving, no pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin s'more cupcakes | Hello Victoria

So in the past, when I have come across canned pumpkin purée, I would buy a couple just for the future. You never know when you might need it! Update – my local little Waitrose has it in stock right now… whaaaatt?!

And of course, when I got the inclination to try these cupcakes, I was out of pumpkin and with no where to find it. So I thought about it, and realized that spiced sweet potatoes (yams in Canada) taste a whole lot like pumpkin pie. So I figured I could simply use some pureed sweet potato instead of pumpkin! And you know what? I couldn’t tell the difference!

Pumpkin s'more cupcakes | Hello Victoria

The original recipe for these cupcakes called for a graham cracker crust. Again, not something you can find here in the UK. However, my mom had sent me a box a while back, and I had juuuust enough left to crush up. You could substitute with digestive biscuits, but I don’t think it’s worth it. The graham crust is more flavour than texture, and without the honey graham taste, I don’t think it’s necessary. You could just omit that part.

Of course, then they wouldn’t be very “s’more” but hey, you do what you can! After all, s’mores are a very North American thing, just like pumpkin pie. Which makes finding graham crackers nigh impossible. Why do I suddenly get these inclinations to bake things with hard to find ingredients?! (more…)

My Favorite Sourdough Bread Recipe

Basic sourdough recipe | Hello Victoria

A loooong while back, I posted a recipe for making your own sourdough starter. I had intended to post a bread recipe shortly after, but it took me this long to get one that I was completely happy with. Some recipes were too wet, some not enough flavour, and others too dense. I kept trying new ones, and new methods, until I had one that I knew would work every time. And here it is!

Basic sourdough recipe | Hello Victoria

This recipe started out as a San Fransisco sourdough recipe from my old school text book, On Baking: A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals. It’s a great book that teaches the science and fundamentals of all manner of pastry and baking techniques, and includes recipes for almost anything you could think of! I often think that I need to really work through my recipe books, and this one is definitely high up on the list. It’s got such a wide variety of recipes, and explains them in full detail.

My favourite sourdough recipe | Hello Victoria

I tried making the sourdough recipe, as it’s described in the book, and it was okay, but not quite sour enough for my taste. That could be simply because of the unique wild yeast that lives in San Fransisco (L. Sanfranciscensis), or because this particular recipe was too ‘quick’ to develop a sour flavour. It actually used a small amount of commercial yeast in the dough, so that you could bake the loaf the same day you make it. Great if you’re strapped for time, but it leaves a bit to be desired in taste. However it did explain one thing I had been wondering in the past – how to acheive what I consider a San Fransisco sourdough crust. (more…)

Richard’s Favourite Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies | Hello Victoria Blog

Okay, it’s time for a really simple recipe. I’ve meant to post this for ages, but haven’t made them often enough, and keep forgetting to take a photo. These are one of Richard’s favourite things that I make – they’re a softer cookie (unlike the crisp biscuits that people tend to make here in the UK), with lots of peanut flavour.

Now, the most important part of the recipe, is the peanut butter that you use. If it’s one of those cheaper brands, with tons of added sugar and palm oil, then you won’t get as strong of a peanut taste. I only ever buy 100 percent peanut, peanut butter. Suprisingly, Morrisons has a really good one, which is waaaay cheaper than all the health-food ones, but still tastes great. Trust me, I love this stuff. It’s great in a banana smoothie too!

Peanut butter cookies | Hello Victoria Blog

These are a really simple cookie, where you just have to cream together the butters and sugar, add some eggs, and then mix in the dry ingredients. Nothing fancy or complicated here! (more…)

Healthy Jerusalem Artichoke + Celeriac Soup: Feed Your Gut

Jerusalem Artichoke + Celeriac Soup | Hello Victoria Blog

Well, it’s finally November, and the weather here in southeast London certainly feels like it. We’ve got the old electric radiator out again, hot water bottles in the bed, and a duvet on the sofa for snuggling. If we only had a fireplace, I think we’d be quite cozy!

But what this weather does for me is make me crave all kinds of warm hearty things… and above all soup! I almost never want to make soup during the summer, when all I want is a salad. But now, I want to tuck into something that feels just as cozy as the hot water bottle currently residing somewhere near my toes… which are covered in thick socks.

Now, this soup isn’t just warm and cozy, but it’s actually good for you! As I mentioned in a previous post about cooking with these bad boys, Jerusalem artichokes are full of inulin, which is amazing for your gut bacteria… just not for your dignity. They call them fartichokes after all. And that’s not the only part of this soup which is healthy – celeriac is too! I mean, it’s definintely not the prettiest vegetable to look at (seriously, it’s not winning any vegetable beauty contests) but celeriac is full of dietary fibre, minerals, and vitamins! With these two as the main ingredients in a soup, you’ll feel better in more ways than one. And seeing as how they are both currently in season, why not try this recipe this weekend?

Healthy Soup for Your Gut: Jerusalem Artichoke + Celeriac Soup | Hello Victoria Blog

Fun fact, we actually grew Jerusalem artichokes this summer, by accident. Turns out we missed some of the plant we dug up last year, and covered it with our new composter. Now we can’t properly dig the rest up, and so we will forever have Jerusalem artichokes growing by our composter. Which is great news for me, but not so for Richard. His gut seems to go particularely crazy when he has Jerusalem artichokes… which isn’t something he likes too much.

Now I really liked the flavour of this soup, as it’s very different from anything else I’ve ever had. Celeriac has a definitely celery taste (obviously), and combined with the nutty Jerusalem artichoke, it was quite unique. I seasoned it a bit less than most things I make, as I really wanted those two flavours to shine through. Normally I go crazy with tons of garlic… mmm garlic… **insert drooling here** (more…)

No-Churn Honeycomb Ice Cream with Chocolate Ribbons

No-churn honeycomb ice cream | Hello Victoria

One of my very favorite things in the world is ice cream. Well, frozen desserts to be honest – if it’s anything frozen and dessert like, I’m in. I remember the first time I went to Tickleberry’s in Okanagan Falls, BC and saw how many flavours they had (72!)… it was love at first sight. If you’re ever in the area, and like frozen things, you have to go! I remember we didn’t understand that the little pictures near the prices indicated how many scoops each size actually had. I mean, when you order a single, you imagine it’s one scoop, right? Wrong! It’s three! I actually ordered the “large”, thinking it was 4 scoops (6), and was so confused when they kept asking me to choose more flavours! It came in a little bucket!

So for me, one of the saddest things about having to leave my Kitchenaid mixer in Canada, was the lack of the ice cream attachment. It’s kind of hard to make my own ice cream without one 😉

No-churn honeycomb ice cream with chocolate ribbons | Hello Victoria

Enter the no-churn ice cream method! Now, I experimented with this a little last summer, with my No-churn Piña Colada ice cream and the No-churn Strawberries + Cream. But the big problem I have, is that almost all no-churn recipes out there use only double cream and condensed milk. And that, my friends, tastes as rich and heavy as it sounds! It’s waaaay too rich with only double cream, but it’s the only way to whip the mix prior to freezing. You dilute the fat content too much with milk, etc. and not only will it not whip up thick before freezing, but it may even separate in the freezer – ending up with a layer of soft cream on top, and hard frozen milk below.

No-churn honeycomb ice cream | Hello Victoria

So I tried experimenting with some old recipes (that I had made before I got an ice cream maker) – but ended up with the problems described above. That’s when I saw a little video on Pinterest, of a recipe from Co-Op. It was a Balsamic Strawberries + Cream no-churn recipe, that used an ingredient I hadn’t considered before – yogurt! I mean, I use it to make popsicles, but never thought to try and use it in my ice cream mix. So, I made a small batch, with no strawberry or anything in it, just to see what the base flavour tasted like. And it was nice! I mean, you could definitely taste the yogurt, but it wasn’t as rich and heavy, while still being soft. I figured that if you added a strong enough flavour to it, the slight tangy yogurt taste would fade to the background, or you might not even notice it at all!

Which brings me around to this recipe! (Finally, right?)

No-churn honeycomb ice cream | Hello Victoria

Richard’s favorite ice cream in the world is Pooh-Bear (now called “Poor Bear” because of some Disney legal woes) from Maud’s Ice Cream in Northern Ireland. It’s literally one of his first stops after getting off the plane in Belfast. It’s a vanilla ice cream with chunks of honeycomb, which partially melt in, creating little ribbons of caramel and crunchy bits. And ever since I started playing around with ice cream recipes – I knew I’d have to make it for him. (more…)

How to Make Honeycomb at Home

How to make honeycomb | Hello Victoria

Honeycomb. Sea Foam. Sponge Toffee. Cinder Toffee. That-stuff-inside-a-crunchie-bar… the list of names for this stuff goes on and on. But they all mean the same thing. It’s a caramel candy that has been made light, fluffy, and full of holes through the addition of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). The baking soda adds a slightly salty taste to the caramel, hence the “sea foam” moniker, but the overall taste is caramel.

I grew up loving crunchie bars, and what I then called sea foam. I remember learning how to make it myself, and dunking it in chocolate to make my own little bite size crunchies. It looks complicated, but it’s really not – once you understand it, that is.

All you need (besides the usual things) is a candy/digital thermometer which can get up to 150°C (~300°F) and liquid glucose. Now, you’re local store (if you’re outside the UK) may not sell liquid glucose, but any specialty cooking/baking store should, and even DIY brewery places too. If you still can’t find any, substitute white corn syrup, but make sure to evaporate off the water sufficiently. It’s a similar product (both are invert sugars) but the water content tends to be higher. If you’re unsure what I mean, read on, it’ll make more sense later.

How to make honeycomb | Hello Victoria

You can find recipes out there for making honeycomb without the glucose, but this recipe is my favorite. I’ve tried a few in the past, and found that their candy instructions weren’t always adequat. They often resulted in flat soft honeycomb, or burnt tasting stuff. Which isn’t exactly ideal; I adapted this recipe from my work, until it was perfect. Just stick with me kid 😉

There are three key things for making this work well – patience, temperature, and the right container. For patience – you have to let the solution boil slowly (to evaporate off the water), instead of turning up the heat and rushing it. Candy temperatures are less about the actual temperature, and more about what they represent. Since water boils at 100°C, for a solution to climb above that, it needs to evaporate off water. The higher the temperature, the less water is present (until you hit 100% sugar and caramelization occurs). If you boil too quickly, it may read a certain temperature, but there is still too much water present. So let it boil slowly, and the temperature will climb with the reduction in water.

As for the temperature, you need an accurate thermometer. It’s one of my main faults with a lot of honeycomb recipes out there, as they use colour descriptions instead of temperatures. For honeycomb, you want to get to what is known as “hard-crack” stage. Anything below that, and your honeycomb will be too soft and chewy, and may even deflate entirely. Hard crack is between 149-154°C. I generally like to get to at least 150, to ensure it’s reached the right stage, but be careful as it’ll climb quickly once it gets past 145ish. Anything above 154°C and you’re in caramelization territory – sounds nice, but too much caramelization ends up tasting burnt. In fact, despite the fact that honeycomb is caramel in colour, we don’t actually caramelize the sugar! It’s the chemical reaction with the baking soda that creates the colour as well as the taste (and sudden increase in size).

How to make honeycomb | Hello Victoria

For the container – you want to ensure you don’t pick one too big. Having the right sized container to pour the honeycomb into will ensure it’ll stay nice and tall. I actually used one waaay too big when making this trial batch (see above). I’m used to making this recipe 8x as big, and wasn’t sure how large a pan to use. What ends up happening is that without it reaching the sides, it’ll fall quite a bit and end up sort of flat 🙁 If you put it into a nice sized container, the sides wil support it while it cools, and you’ll end up with tall chunks of light honeycomb. For this amount, I’d recommend a small square pan (like 8×8″), but maybe put some parchment paper underneath incase it overflows a tiny bit.

And that’s it! If you follow those three things (and the recipe below – obviously), you should end up with great honeycomb! I’ve taught quite a few people to make it in the past, so hopefully you’ll have no issue. Use it to make my No-Churn Honeycomb Ice Cream, coat it in chocolate, or just eat it! Just make sure to store it properly, and quickly. Honeycomb will absorb any moisture present, so if you were to make it on a rainy day, with a window open, you might not have as great success as a drier environment. Once your honeycomb is hard, break it up and store it in an airtight container. I worked at a restaurant where we would vaccuum-seal little bags of it, so that we only had to open a small amount during service. Just don’t let it sit around in the kitchen too long after you make it, or it’ll get all sticky. (Like cotton candy! That stuff practically melts if left outside…)

How to make honeycomb | Hello Victoria

It’s such a fun thing to make – the baking soda creates such an instant reaction (which is why I have no photos of it). It’s a fun thing to make with older kids, as long as they are careful. It’s like a science experiment you can eat! Yum!

Homemade Honeycomb

Ingredients

  • 134g sugar
  • 25g honey
  • 47g glucose (white corn syrup)
  • 16g water
  • 10g sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)

Instructions

  1. In a small pot over medium heat, use a whisk to combine all ingredients except for the bicarbonate*
  2. Bring to a boil, and dissolve the sugar, whisking occassionally
  3. Continue boiling, evaporating off the water, adjusting the heat so that it doesn't boil too rapidly
  4. While the mixture is boiling, sift the bicarbonate in a small bowl, and prep a small baking tray by completely lining it with parchment paper
  5. Once the sugar solution reaches 150°C (302°F), remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the bicarbonate. Make sure you whisk enough that you aren't left with pockets of baking soda, but not too long or you'll deflate it
  6. Immediately pour the honeycomb into your prepared pan, being gentle so as not to deflate the mixture. Don't be tempted to touch the surface while scraping in the last bits, or you'll end up deflating it
  7. Allow to cool (the surface will be hard) then break into small pieces and store in an airtight container

Notes

*make sure the pot isn't too small, as the baking soda reaction grows a lot!

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2 Days in Bucharest

2 days in Bucharest, Romania | Hello Victoria

Way back in June, Richard and I had the opportunity to travel to Romania for a wedding! Man, how time flies! I just got around to going through the photos that we took, and thought I would write up a quick recap of the things we did and places that we went.

We were technically there for 4 days, but since Richard was the best man in the wedding, there was a lot of time spent doing wedding related stuff. Everything we did could be easily crammed into two days.

Architecture in Bucharest, Romania | Hello Victoria

Walking the streets in Bucharest | Hello Victoria

Romania wasn’t exactly a country that was on either of our bucket lists, but we enjoyed the opportunity to check out someplace new. It’s been described as “the new Berlin” (since I’ve never been to Berlin, this didn’t really mean much to me), and definitely has a lot of new bars and coffee shops popping up all over the city. It’s a city that seems ripe for development; I couldn’t stop admiring all the old buildings around town, and kept wishing people were buying them and fixing them up. Buuuut despite the lack of a squeaky clean exterior, there are a lot of new restaurants and ‘hipster-type’ hotspots all over the capital city that are worth a look.

Architecture in Bucharest, Romania | Hello Victoria Architecture in Bucharest, Romania | Hello Victoria

Architecture in Bucharest, Romania | Hello Victoria

The best place to start is definitely the Old Town, which is full of cafes, bars, and plenty of tourist shops if you’re feeling the need to buy some sort of fridge magnet or tacky shot glasses. It’s quite small, so you can walk around it pretty easily and admire all of the buildings. And, if you’re hotel is located a bit outside the old town, why not walk through a park to get there?

Bucharest has plenty of nice old parks all around the city, which are great in the summertime. If we’d had more time I would have wanted to walk through more of them to get to/from Old Town and our hotel. However with the wedding activities, it was often more prudent to simply get an Uber. (Oh, and if you happen to visit Romania, make sure you use Uber! It’s so insanely cheap in Romania, but also incredibly reliable. We used it to get everywhere, including getting to and from the airport.) (more…)