GF Pavlova with a Twist by Allison

I tried making pavlova two times before with my hand-held “immersion blender/tool” but it was an epic fail. The egg whites just never got stiff enough and my “Tesco special” was not making the grade. So I gave up…..until I pulled my cobalt blue KitchenAid mixer out of my top cupboard. Why yes, I had a KitchenAid mixer but couldn’t ever get it to work properly as my voltage converter I had wasn’t working properly. A friend was getting rid of hers so whallah! I knew where all of the fuse boxes were and had access to all of them in case I blew any fuses, which I did, but I got my prized KitchenAid mixer to work! This definitely called for a re-do of the pavlova as I knew my KitchenAid would be able to get the job done. You see, I was such an avid baker that I decided to carry my KitchenAid mixer back with me from the U.S. to Prague in my carry-on bag several years ago. Oh you should have seen the looks on the security personnel’s faces! They were pulling each other towards the screen and shaking their heads in disbelief! One gentleman pulled me aside and said, “Mam, is this mixer yours?!” I replied, “Yes it is sir….” with a smile of course and he said, “Oh, well Mam, we haven’t seen a KitchenAid mixer come through here before! It is quite an unusual item to carry with you but everything is fine from our side, hope it makes the journey for you” and that was that! I knew it was a questionable item to take on the plane but I did have my Mom wait before she left the airport in case they wouldn’t allow it so I could give it to her to take home. But I gave my Mom the thumbs up signal and waved goodbye before I headed towards my gate on the other side of security.
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Luckily I was flying business class on award miles and no one questioned the weight of my bag along my journey. In case you’re wondering, I was able to lift it into the overhead compartment on my own on two different flights as well! So you can imagine how rewarding it was for me to finally use it and to pull off a pavlova to serve at Easter brunch! The twist is the pavlova has cinnamon and vanilla bean in it…..and it is delicious, seriously delicious.

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Now I just need to work on preventing the cracking of the pavlova so next time I won’t cook it as long!

recipe for the pavlova slightly adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients 

For the pavlova:
6 egg whites
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 heaping teaspoon balsamic vinegar
seeds scraped from a vanilla bean

To assemble:

2 small containers or 1 large container of liquid whipped cream 40% fat
2 Tbsp. icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups mixed berries for the top

To make the pavlova: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until satiny peaks form. Add the sugar, 1 spoonful at a time, and continue beating until the mixture becomes stiff and very shiny.

Using a spatula, fold in the cinnamon, balsamic vinegar, and vanilla bean. Spoon the mixture onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, forming a 10-inch circle that is about 2-inches thick.

Place in the oven, and immediately turn the oven down to 300°F or 150°C. Bake for about 1 hour . When the pavlova is done baking, it should look and feel dry on top. Remove from the oven, and let cool in a dry place overnight.

The next day, invert the pavlova onto a serving dish, peel away the parchment and reverse onto another serving dish. The pavlova shell can be made up to 48 hours in advance. Be sure to wrap it well in plastic wrap and keep it in a dry place until ready to assemble.

To make the whip cream: Use an electric whisk to beat the whipping cream until smooth. Whisk in the icing sugar and vanilla extract.

To assemble the pavolva: Dollop the whipped cream into the center of the pavlova, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle the fruit over the cream. Enjoy with friends and family!

 

 

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Carrot Cake Cupcakes by L

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This Easter, we celebrated with some fun brunches, toddler partying and of course, with a few Easter egg hunts. I searched around the web for a carrot cupcake recipe that wouldn’t be too difficult to prepare and taste delicious. I ended up finding this one from Pinch of Yum. These sweet and moist cupcakes were a hit with both the kids and the adults.

We decorated our cupcakes with some Cadbury’s mini chocolate eggs and some purple bunny Peeps. I was never crazy for these candies when I was a young girl, nor as an adult, but they did mark the Easter holiday for me. Somehow living abroad and away from my native country makes me pine for these little confectionaries. This holiday, we lucked out and received two special deliveries. Topping the cupcakes with these childhood treats, made me feel a bit closer to home this year. Hope your Easter was full of sweet memories!

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Stay Calm and Don’t Lose Your Cookies by L

I’m not exactly sure where I got this recipe from, but it will forever hold a nostalgic spot in my recipe repertoire. The day before my scheduled C-section, I baked dozens and dozens of these chewy chocolate chip cookies. My mom and I thought it would be a good idea to have some “Thank you” treats for the nurses and staff at the maternity ward.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Well, the cookies didn’t last long. Not only because they are deliciously good, but because in the excitement of my twin daughters’ births, my mom couldn’t control her emotions. I can still remember the very moment when the cookies suddenly disappeared. Laying on the gurney, freshly stitched up, I waited for the nurses to present my daughters to me. As one of the operating nurses placed a daughter in each of my arms, I noticed another nurse running down the hall with a large plastic tub filled with the chewy chocolate chip cookies we had baked.

My attention was quickly drawn back to my daughters as my doctor started to discuss breast-feeding. As I attempted to do so, the doors at the end of the hallway quickly swung open and there was that same nurse I just saw shuffling down the hall. She rushed towards us and handed back an empty plastic container to my mother. All I could think was “Hey, what happened to the cookies?”

Crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside!

Crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside!

However, there was no time for me to bring that up. My daughters were taken to the nursery while I got whisked away to the Intensive Care Unit. No fun. Fortunately, my amazing doctor, pulled some strings and my dear husband was able to visit me for a few minutes. After we shared some tender words about the miracle that just came into our lives, the topic quickly turned to the cookies.

“Your mom gave all the cookies away,” daddy said in a surprised manner, “She just gave them all away.”

“I guess she was too excited. Someone definitely got carried away,” I answered with a laugh, followed by a moan as I grasped my stitched up abdomen. “Ouch, didn’t know how much laughing would hurt. Could you please pick something else up?”

Being the dear sweet husband that he is, nodded his head and then showed me a photo on his iPhone. Bundled up and sharing a bassinet, were my two beautiful newborns sound asleep in the nursery.

Early next morning, I was already back in the maternity ward with my daughters, husband and mom.

“Ma,” I called, “Why’d you give all our cookies away? Those were for the nurses in this ward. Now, we don’t have anything to share and we’ll be here awhile.”

She shrugged her shoulders and frowned. “Just get them some chocolate,” was her response.

We did buy some chocolates and got to know the nursing and housekeeping staff very well over our 9 day stay in the maternity ward. I would have liked to thank them for all their help with some of these home-made chocolate chip cookies, but the chocolates did seem to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. The day of my daughters’ births is a moment I’ll never forget, but the memory of my mother’s funny reaction to their arrival will also never escape my mind.

Overcome with intense joy and happiness, she quickly lost all her cookies.

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You won’t be able to just have one!

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 cups chocolate chips

Pre heat oven to 350 F/180C degrees

Whisk flour and baking soda in a small bowl.

In another bowl, cream butter and both sugars.

Then add salt, vanilla and eggs on low-speed.

Beat for one more minute.

Then fold in the flour, followed by the chocolate chips.

Scoop about a tablespoon of cookie batter on a well-greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Enjoy!