Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cinnamon Muffins with a Crumble Topping

I know it’s been hot out, and I know many of you don’t want to turn on the oven. But these muffins are really worth it.

These have been on my list of stuff to bake for a really long time. It seems no matter how much I try and cross off that list more things just keep popping up. I wonder if I’ll ever have nothing on that list. Gosh I hope not. The funny thing about that list is that I like having it long. It gives me options and inspiration.

So, back to muffins. I found these on Brenda’s blog. I previously made her Chocolate Chip Scones with a Peanut Butter Glaze and because I loved those scones so much, I knew she wouldn’t let me down with this muffin recipe.

I did do a few alterations to the recipe, but only because I’m not sure I like blueberries. I know I’ve mentioned I don’t like fruit or vegetables, and the thing is… I think it’s their texture. I see gorgeous blueberries and strawberries in the produce section of my grocery store and I imagine how they taste and it’s wonderful, but then I think of how it would feel in my mouth and I just shudder and walk away. It’s a shame, I know. So instead of putting blueberries into the muffins, I upped the amount of cinnamon and added just a dash of ground nutmeg.

These were really some of the best muffins I have ever made. The interior was so soft, even on the second day! And the crumble was so crunch and perfectly sweet. You can’t ever go wrong with a crumble topping, not on anything!

So go on, turn on that oven, it won’t kill you because you’ll probably do this in the morning when the sun hasn’t had enough time to boil yet. And just think, these muffins only take about 15 minutes to cook so you really won’t have that oven on for too long anyways.

Cinnamon Muffins with a Crumble Topping
Recipe from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles
Makes 10 muffins

1 egg, room temperature
½ cup milk
¼ cup canola oil
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and canola oil. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until the batter just comes together, try not to over mix. Use a medium cookie scoop or ¼ cup measuring cup to divide the batter between the muffin tins. Let the batter sit in the pan while you make the crumble.

In a small bowl combine the sugar and flour together. Add in the cubed butter and rub the mixture with the tips of your fingers. You will want pea-sized chunks. Sprinkle the crumble on top of the muffins. Place in the oven and bake until the tops are golden, about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chocolate-Studded Cookie Bars

I didn’t plan to make this. Making this just sort of happened.

You see, I’m usually lucky on Friday the 13th. Nothing terrible ever happens to me on this day, well except this particular Friday the 13th. I was originally going to make butterscotch bars, but those flopped miserably.

I was craving a treat and since the cake had been finished off within 24 hours, we had no desserts in the house, which is unacceptable. So I took a look through my Foodgawker favorites and found a few recipes for butterscotch bars. I quickly picked one out (turns out most of the recipes were almost identical) and set to work.

I hadn’t even gotten passed the second step before I knew something wasn’t right. The butterscotch chips and the butter were not coming together like I imagined. The recipe clearly said to melt the butterscotch chips and the butter together in a saucepan. Well the butter melted, and the butterscotch chips melted, but they were like water and oil. They refused to come together. Now looking back I’m not sure if that’s how it was supposed to be, but at the moment, it didn’t seem right. So I tossed that batch and tried again, this time with less butter. Still the mixture would not play nice. So I tossed that batch as well (terrible waste of butter and butterscotch chips sadly). So what to do with all the other ingredients sitting on the table? Well I had to make something since my eggs were already cracked. I quickly hopped on Foodgawker again and desperately searched for something with one egg and egg white. I found nothing, but the chocolate studded blondies definitely caught my attention.

These are so simple to make, seriously. It hardly took any time at all. These went from nothing in a bowl to goopy delicious batter poured into a pan and placed in the oven in probably 7 minutes. The batter is sort of thin, and it will need a little coaxing, but it’s so worth it. My sister, who never eats anything I make, loved them. She even took some to her friend’s house, and came back empty handed.

I have decided to change the name though. These tasted a little like chocolate chip cookies, which in my opinion is great! I think blondies and cookie bars are sort of like half siblings where the blondie and the brownie are like cousins. And because these bars are on the thinner side (much like a cookie in bar form) I’m re-naming them as chocolate-studded cookie bar. But no matter what you call ‘em, they’re still so delicious, I may just have to make more!

Chocolate-Studded Cookie Bar
Adapted from Flour Arrangements
Makes one 8x8 or 9x9 inch pan

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 cup dark brown sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
45 grams semi-sweet chocolate chips (use more to your preference)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a square baking pan, either 8x8 or 9x9 inch, with tinfoil. Grease tinfoil with cooking spray and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and salt. Remove from heat and let it cool for just a minute so you don’t scramble the egg when you add them. Speaking of eggs, once the butter/sugar mixture has cooled down slightly, beat in the egg. Add the vanilla and stir. Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir until combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. You may need to coax the batter towards the sides. Once the batter has been evenly spread out to all sides of the pan, put it in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes or until the top has turned golden brown.

Allow to cool in the pan before slicing. This would be an absolute dream to eat with some vanilla bean ice cream!


While in Paris a few weeks back I saw so many pastries, desserts, and treats that I longed to grab and just stuff my face with. But I kept cool and just decided to drool over every incredibly pretty and flaky dessert.

And with true Paris fashion, many of the treats I wanted to get my hands on were pastries. Every café and bakery we walked passed had rows upon rows of golden brown croissants, plain and ones with little bits of chocolate peeping out of the sides; all kinds of tarts lined the shelves; and all the cakes were beautifully iced. It was a dream to look at them all.

One of the pastries I saw definitely caught my attention when I first saw it. They looked like little pat a choux type things, but they had these little clumps of sugar on top. (I would later learn that the sugar clumps were called pearl sugar) They were so cute and puffy; I kind of wish I had gotten one.

Not even two days after I arrive back home I see a recipes for chouquettes! I couldn’t believe it and instantly hit favorite, not caring what ingredients went in and set about making them the next day. The only thing I couldn’t get was the pearl sugar. I have absolutely no idea where I would find something like that, so I didn’t even really bother. But, if you want to make these in the traditional sense, go ahead and use that pearl sugar. As for me, a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar was quite alright.

Like I said before, I’m sorry I never got a chance to try an actual chouquette so I could compare the two, but what can you do?

These little puff balls were perfect in every sense. They were crispy on the outside and so, so soft on the inside. They were amazing. As I was taking pictures, my mom snuck a couple and the first word to come out of her mouth was “Beautiful!”. I think I may have under baked mine just a tad because the inside was still a little chewy, but the chewiness might have also been due to the chouquettes absorbing the confectioners’ sugar.

Also, if you’re scared to work with pat a choux type dough, don’t be. If I can do it, so can you. The steps are real simple and you’ll have beautiful little “sugar puffs” within an hour. Also, if you’re not good with a pastry bag, like I am, use a small cookie scoop to portion out the dough. It’s so easy and you’ll get roughly the same size pastries each time.

Adapted from Merci Mama
Makes about 20

½ tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
Pinch of salt
½ cup water
67 grams (about ½ cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 eggs, room temperature
Pearl sugar or confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, butter, salt, and water. Set over medium heat and bring up to a simmer, stirring occasionally to help the butter melt. Once the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has come to a simmer, remove the saucepan from the heat.

Add the flour all at once and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the dough starts to pull away from the sides.

Drop eggs in one at a time, stirring continuously with the wooden spoon. Make sure each egg has been fully incorporated before adding in the next. The dough will look curdled and weird, but that’s ok, just keep stirring and it will soon come together.

Place a cover over the saucepan and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Use a small cookie scoop (or you can use a piping bag or two spoons, whichever you feel is easiest) to portion out the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Leave about 1-2 inches between each dough mound. If using pearl sugar, sprinkle some on the top. Press down gently to adhere to the dough.

Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until each chouquette has puffed and become golden brown. Cool on a cooling rack for a few minutes and enjoy. If you are using powdered sugar, once the little puffs have cooled, sift some of it on top and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Classic White Cake with Whipped Vanilla Frosting

While I was exploring a new part of the world, my sister was in Costa Rica! Yes, Costa Rica. It really surprised me.

In my high school every year Spanish 3 students get this schpeal about going to Spanish speaking countries for a considerable amount of time (either a 2 week trip, or a 4 week trip). I am terrible at Spanish (I can semi-understand people speaking it and I can read it, but I can’t speak it myself). I also have a huge comfort zone. I don’t like going outside and I don’t like trying weird exotic foods. I know I sound like a snob, but I don’t care. This is me.

My sister, however, got really into it. And all because of this new program that the Walking Tree Company (the name of the tour group) had come up with. If she decided to go, she would be going to Costa Rica for 14 days, 10 of which would be spend in the jungles helping out sea turtles! Yes, I was slightly jealous that this program wasn’t available when I took Spanish 3, but then again Becca + Jungle = Unhappy. It seemed like every day she would get more and more excited about going the trip. When it was apparent that she was committed to doing this, my parents signed her up.

My sister ended up leaving the day before I did and got back the following Tuesday of my return home. Now my sister absolutely loves eating cake, donettes, brownies, cookies, sour gummy worms, and all that jazz (She’s also a big Shirley Temple drinker and hamburger eater.) So in honor of her arrival back to civilization, I made her a white cake with vanilla frosting, her favorite!

She must have really enjoyed it, because she ate three slices in about 10 minutes. And even though she said she had an amazing time in Costa Rica, she said she was just happy to be home and eat some real food. It turns out that she ate rice and beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a majority of the time. And she was only allowed to have dessert on the last night of her stay in Costa Rica. Yup, I could definitely not handle that at all.

This cake really did not last long, no more than 12 hours once it was presented. It’s super soft and springy with the slightest hint of almond for sweetness. It really was delicious. And the frosting, although not my favorite, was definitely tasty. But be careful, the frosting gets very soft when not refrigerated. So keep the frosted cake in the fridge until a few minutes before serving.

Classic White Cake
From Baking Illustrated
Makes one 9 inch round cake

1 cup + 2 tbsp. cake flour
½ cup milk, room temperature
3 egg whites, room temperature
1 tsp. almond extract
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup +1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 inch round cake pan with cooking spray, line the bottom with a round of parchment paper (you can just trace the pan and then cut), and grease the parchment. Set aside.

Whisk together the milk, egg whites, almond extract, and vanilla extract into a small bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt on low speed. Add the butter slowly and beat until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add half of the milk mixture to the crumbs. Beat on medium speed for 1 ½ minutes. Add the remaining milk mixture and beat for 30 more seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl, making sure to get the batter at the bottom of the bowl incorporated. Return the speed to medium and beat batter for another 20 seconds.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Use a rubber spatula to spread the batter and smooth the top. Place on the center rack and bake for about 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake rest in the pan for a few minutes before inverting it onto a cooling rack. Let the cake cool completely before frosting, about 1 ½ hours.

Whipped Vanilla Frosting
Adapted from Sweetopolita
Makes enough to crumb coat and frost one layer cake; plus about 1 cup extra

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
1 ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Food coloring (if desired)

Beat butter on medium speed for 8 minutes in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. The butter will become very cream and pale.

Turn the speed down to low and add the remaining ingredients. Mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for another 6 minutes. The frosting will be very light and fluffy. Add a small amount of food coloring.

Best used right away for ideal spreading consistency.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Best Drop Biscuits

Phew. First post with a recipe in quite some time, I know, but for good reason. I just got back from a trip to England and Paris. I spent a total of 8 days in England and 2 days in Paris.

So, back to the recipe. I made these amazing biscuits right before I left on my trip. For a reason I can’t remember I had this craving for biscuits. Not just any biscuits though. I was craving for Pillsbury’s biscuits (the soft and fluffy kind, not the flaky kind-which is also very delicious!) I know that Pillsbury isn’t exactly healthy and I’ve stopped making things from boxes, tubes, and yellow packages, so I wasn’t going to go running to the store (something I can literally do because I live a 7 minute walk from the store; dangerous, I know) to get them. Instead, I looked under my “To Bake” list I have saved on the computer to see if I had any biscuits on there. Turns out I had just one biscuit recipe saved.

I found the recipe on Monica’s blog Lick the Bowl Good (she got the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated). They are called The Best Drop Biscuits, and I know a lot of people are turned off by the words “the best” because “the best” isn’t always the best to everyone. However, in my case, these seriously are the BEST homemade biscuits I have ever tasted. They are light, fluffy, and soft in the center and golden brown and slightly crisp on the outside. I usually don’t try and have too much bread during dinner because I think I eat too much bread as it is (I’m always eating sandwiches and hamburgers and such), but that night I had two and had to restrain myself from getting a third. And best of all, they tasted exactly, if not better, than Pillsbury’s buttermilk biscuits.

Not only are these extremely tasty, but they are really easy to whip up. I ended up making two trays of 7 biscuits (just because I don’t like having two pans in the oven at once) all in less than 30 minutes.  You seriously have to try this recipe, you won’t regret it one bit!

The Best Drop Biscuits
From Lick the Bowl Good
Makes 14 biscuits
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sugar
¾ tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk*
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled for 5 minutes

*whenever there is buttermilk in the recipe, I tend to use powdered buttermilk and add water to it. This makes dough much looser than if you were to use regular buttermilk. I find that the rend result isn’t too terribly different, but it’s just something to keep in mind.

Preheat the oven to 475 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Stir the buttermilk and melted butter together in a small bowl.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir with a rubber spatula until the dough just forms and starts to pull a little away from the sides. Take a medium cookie scoop (or ¼ cup measure) and scoop the batter onto the lined sheet tray leaving about 1-2 inches in between each biscuit. Bake until the tops are golden brown. Monica says it will take 12-14 minutes, but for me it took 9 minutes, so set the timer for 9 minutes and check on them periodically.

Serve warm.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Endlan/France Trip 2012: Day 7 and 8

July 4, Day 7
Today was basically just a travel day. Nothing too exciting happened, besides arriving in Paris, but that wasn’t exciting, it was traumatic. I took the Chunnel from England aaaaaall the way to Paris, France, which was a good ride. Again, I slept for maybe half the train ride, but it was a fairly easy ride. The metro/underground/subway (whichever you prefer to call it) was a nightmare. I practically clung to my mom’s side the entire time. There were so many people and we didn’t know where we were going and we couldn’t read the signs. I think my mom took it far better than I did because I was a mess. When we finally got above ground I begged my mom to never go back down there again.

Paris is filled with statues like this.

Anyways, we got to Paris pretty late in the day, so we didn’t do much except check into the hotel and walk around some. Our hotel was in walking distance to the Notre Dame, so we did go there. The Notre Dame is massive! I loved the architecture on the outside, but since I’m not religious, the inside didn’t really interest me too much, although the stain glass windows were really pretty.

Notre Dame

So that was basically it for the day. And since this post is so short, I’ll combine it with the next day as well.

July 5, Day 8

Today my mom and I were much more adventurous. Since we were in Paris, we thought we might as well have croissants for breakfast, which was definitely the right move. We walked down to a little café down the street from our hotel. I took a look through the glass to see the array of pastry. I would have loved nothing more than to sit and eat everything that café had to offer, but I knew that wouldn’t be possible. Instead, a sugar-dusted almond triangle pastry caught my eye. This croissant was perfectly sweet and almondy. I absolutely loved it. I was really tempted to order another, but I restrained myself.

Perfectly sweetened, flaky, tender triangle almond croissant.

Arch de Triumph

The Thinker's backside.... The bus only allowed us this view unfortunately.

By now, being this far into the trip, my mom and I are pretty exhausted (Don’t give me that look, you would be too if you were on a 7/8 hour time difference and walked miles almost every day.) so instead of walking everywhere we walked to go, we got tickets for the Paris bus tour. This way, we were able to hop on an off wherever our hearts desired, but we would still be able to see all the major sites of the city.

Eiffel Tower!

Up close

View from the first level of the Eiffel Tower (I walked up both flights of stairs. which is like 500-600 stairs at least!)

View from the second level. After this, if you wanted all the way to the top you would have to buy another ticket for the lift.

Around noon we finally arrive near the Louver. But, to get to the Louver we had to pass under an archway, and this archway was scarcely wider than the bus itself. It scared the crap out of me; I thought the for sure the bus wouldn’t make it through, but alas it did. When the bus stopped, my mom and I got off and walked towards the glass building. I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly didn’t expect to go underground to see the biggest museum of all time! It was incredible to go down a flight of stairs and see all of this space! And that was just the lobby. My mom and I stayed on the first floor, for if we ventured out anymore I’m sure it would take an entire day to get through everything.

The Louver

La Victorire de Samothrace

The Mona Lisa

I wasn't able to figure out the name of these portraits, but they look very familiar! I just can't put my finger on it.

Les Noces de Cana

 Seeing all the paintings and portraits were amazing! There were some really giant paintings that must have been fifty feet (just a slight exaggeration) high! I could never imagine painting something like that. Let alone have the patience to wait for it to dry. I would probably walk all over it trying to paint each corner and the middle. Then there were the very tiny paintings that were like 6x6 inches. I couldn’t imagine painting anything that small! I’d probably go blind. I was just so amazing at all the art work. Anyone that has any sort of artistic ability has my respect.

Laduree's window display! <3

Sorry about the lighting, but I didn't want to draw too much attnetion to myself and the camerea while I was in the store.

After seeing the Louver we came out and it looked like the clouds were threatening to upon up and rain on us, but they stayed intact, or a while at least. Since it wasn’t raining yet, we walked up to the fashion district. My goodness there were so many stores and all the window displays were so pretty and sparkly! My mom saw a dress in a Ralph Lauren window priced at 4,600 euros (which she then later explained was about $8,000!) Then we come across Laduree. OMG I nearly died looking in the window. The window display was so amazing and so sophisticated! When we went in I got really excited. Rows upon rows of French macarons lined the display boxes, as well as other French pastries with glistening glazes and rich dark chocolate cakes with mousse fillings. Oh man it was a dream. I had such a hard time choosing which macaron I would order, and sadly I think the Frenchman behind the counter was a little annoyed at me as well, but these would be my first macarons. I went with a classic, vanilla bean, just to get a sense of what a real macaron was, as well as strawberry candy, which was so pretty and pink with sugar crystals on top.

Vanilla on top and Strawberry Candy on bottom.

When I took my first bite of the vanilla, I was just a tad disappointed. It didn’t really taste much like anything. But with each bite, my taste buds started to adjust and I could definitely taste the lovely hint of vanilla. And because I am me and I like to dissect things, I split open the half that I had not eaten to try the filling by itself. My god that was the best filling I had ever tasted. It was creamy, soft, and sort of fluffy. And there were vanilla bean specks. Oh it was so good. Next up: the strawberry candy. This pink gem is part of the “Incroyables” collection. The collection is part of their 150th anniversary and “pay[s] tribute to Ladurée first macaron and to the delicious flavour of almonds.” I’m so glad I got this one because it was sweet and just a tad bit tart (I don’t like heavily tarted things – and yes I’m sure every grammar teacher, including my former teacher Mrs. B is cringing at that line). I’ve never had an actual strawberry before, but it tasted just like how I would imagine a strawberry would taste like. Too bad I hate eating fruit. Anyways, unlike the vanilla macaron, the filling in this one was like a flat and circular marshmallow. It was absolutely delicious! And now I can'’ wait to try and make my own macarons. I’m actually excited to try all sorts of British and French treats!

A fantastic (and apparently famous) bookstore. So many books to go through. I found a book I really liked that I must go on Amazon and order. It's called A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

G.W. stood for George Whitman. Born December 12, 1913; Died December 14, 2011. Whitman was the owner of the bookstore and has now passed it onto his daughter.

When we came out of Laduree the rain had begun, so my mom and I hopped on the bus tour one more time to drop us off near the hotel where we could get some dinner. Did you know that the French eat dinner really late? And I’m not talking late like 7:30 late; I’m talking about they don’t get to the restaurant until at least 9 pm. Yeah, I don’t know how they do it because I need dinner by like 6:30 pm at the latest. Anyways, while we were halfway through our dinner, this Dutch couple who can’t speak a lick of French and the tiniest amount of English come in. They were so adorable, but I felt so bad. They were lost what to order and came over to us for advice. We told them what we were eating, and they ended up ordering the exact same thing we did. When we were done, we passed by their table and they seemed to enjoy their food. I sure hope they’re doing ok.

So this is it. This was my amazing/exhilarating/terrifying/fantastic graduation trip. Well, technically there was one more day, but there are no pictures because it was just my mom and I going back to England and staying in a hotel by the airport so we could catch our 7:45am flight. Anyways, I'm thankful to my dad for suggesting England and France. But I'm also eternally grateful to my mom for going with me, and experiencing all of these things with me. I will always remember this. Thank you guys! (Boy I hope I don't sound cheesy)

Tomorrow I'll post the recipe of a little something I made before the trip.

Mama. :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

England/France Trip 2012: Day 6

July 3, Day 6

This day was the worst day, weather wise. The day started off with some blue sky peeking out of massive white clouds. Those white clouds turned grey very quickly and then the rain started. You know how there can be different type of rain, like the small, fast drops that sting your skins, or the really fat drops that go “plunk!”. Well this was the kind of rain that was just really wet and heavy. Not fun. Even though the weather was bad, my mom and I persevered.

Cute little pathway sign.

Little me :)

This was the day we traveled to Stratford-upon-Avon so see Anne Hathaway’s cottage. Instead of just getting tickets to see Anne Hathaway’s cottage, we also got tickets to see Shakespeare’s birthplace, each being equally entertaining and interesting to look at.  

Anne Hathaway's cottage

It's so quaint and cute and pretty!

And just look at those flowers! Flowers like that doesn't exist in Colorado, period.

First we went to Anne Hathaway’s cottage. The entire place was covered in lush green trees and bushes, and beautifully bloomed flowers. It was amazing to look at everything growing around the cottage. Pictures weren’t allowed inside the house, but we could take as many outside as we wanted. The inside of the cottage was amazing. The cottage had originally been only two rooms. I can’t remember how big the tour guide said they were, but they were both pretty small. And the most amazing part was that seven people were living together in those two rooms, and there was no bathroom! I know I’m getting all dramatic because I live in the 21st century, but still. Imagine living with six other people in such a small house with no bathroom. I give the Hathaways props. Anne’s father was apparently very rich and when he died he gave each of his children a little over £10 each. Something that was equivalent to about $300,000 today (I think that’s right, but I’m only about 33% sure). Pretty soon the house grew and grew. There are several bedrooms upstairs and there is a common room and a kitchen. And most of the original foundation is still intact.

Shakespeare's birthplace

Again, look at how green everything is! (sorry, I'm just mesmerized)

Just a few miles up the road is Shakespeare’s birthplace. His birthplace was also interesting. It wasn’t as beautifully lush as the cottage, but it was still nice to look at. (By the way, did you know that Anne married Shakespeare when she was 26 and he was 18?) The Shakespeare’s own two beds (one bed cost about 2 years pay is what the instructor said), so the Shakespeare’s were definitely well off. And their home was quite large too. Mr. Shakespeare was a glove maker and had his workshop right in his own home. And since gloves were very expensive and high-class back then, not many people had them. And when someone did buy a pair of gloves, they wouldn’t wear them! Strange, I know. Instead of wearing the expensive gloves, they would show it off by pinning it to their clothes. It’s fun to learn how people lived way back when.

At one point two actors came out and preformed the balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet.

After spending some time in Shakespeare’s birthplace my mom and I were on the move again. This time we drove up to Warwick Castle. The castle part was very interesting, but I couldn’t help but feel the place had turned into one of the worst tourist attractions; it just kind of felt like an amusement park, but without the rides. I dunno. I hope I’m not confusing you, but it was just a feeling I got. The inside was beautiful. And there was a little party going on too. Wax figures were scattered throughout the rooms and there were little facts about each person attending the party. That was really fun and clever I thought. One thing I will always remember is that everyone had affairs with everyone in that household, my goodness. But it was still very fun. I even saw one of the prisons that were kept underground. Jeeze those were scary and I wouldn’t want to be locked down there and forgotten (as most prisoners were).

Warwick Castle

Diorama of the entire castle
*note: I would show pictures of the inside, but most of them are just way too dark to really get a sense of the place.

Not far away from Warwick Castle is a beautiful garden that my mom and I visited (I know I’ve said every garden is beautiful, but they really are. When you’re not used to seeing so much green and life, you really notice how pretty everything is.) The garden was donated by Princess Diana. I feel like there was nothing she didn’t do. But it really was so pretty. And there was even a little mini waterfall flowing into a pond.

Just part of the garden. I don't know why I didn't take as many pictures of this garden.

England/France Trip 2012: Day 5

July 2, Day 5
To me, this was the best day of the trip. I’ll give you the two main reasons why: castles and treacle sponge cake. Intrigued? Well those come later in on in the day.

On the way to Bath

The day started off sort of early because we had to get the rental car in order to do what we had planned for the day. Once we got the rental car, we were off. I don’t remember much of the car ride to the country-side because I tend to fall asleep on long car rides. My mom says I didn’t miss much, just lots of rain (which it dad every single day while we were in England).

Roman Bath entrance

Our first destination was Bath. Bath, if you didn’t know, was established by the Romans as a spa. They built baths around hot springs. The interesting thing about this is that some of the architecture still exists as well as the hot springs! The water still flows and you can still see the steam rising up. My mom and I took a little walk through all the exhibits of Bath and at the end you could taste the water from the bath. I didn’t try it, but my mom, who is much more adventurous than I am, did.

Part of the bath, you can't see it, but there is steam rising

The Temple Pediment: This was at the front of the Temple of Sulis Minerva and was supported by four massive columns. It looked down on visitors in the Temple Courtyard from a height of 15 meters. Its powerful imagery dominated the scene.

The little town surrounding the hot springs is quite cute. My mom and I had lunch in a little pub with some really delicious food. I had this jerk chicken that was the most flavorful jerk chicken I have ever come across. And after lunch we went to a little fudge shop where I got chocolate covered marshmallows. I know it’s a simple little thing, but I haven’t had a marshmallow in ages!

A building in Bath

Sally Lunn made big buns.

They were at least 6 inches in diameter (at the very least) and about 4-5 inches tall.

Once the marshmallows had been eaten, we were off again, this time to Thornbury! This is where the trip gets really exciting, well at least for me anyways. Again, I slept most of the way there, but I was awake for the last 30 minutes to see the gorgeous green country-side. Seeing the rolling hills of green is such a stark contrast to the barren desert that is Colorado.

The reason why going to Thornbury is so exciting is because for one night, my mom and I got to stay in a real live castle! It was pure magic. On the outside, the castle is so pretty and tall with beautiful stone walls. Yes, that’s right, I called a stone beautiful. And inside the grounds were something else! Everything was so green and perfect. Guests are allowed to explore every inch of the castle, which is pretty much what my mom and I did. We went up many mysterious spiral stair cases and looked in all the public rooms. Everything put me in awe!

Driving up to Thornbury Castle.

The entrance.

One of the many spiral stair cases (apparently I'm so pathetic that I can get motion sickness from going up these kinds of stairs)

On the castle grounds. See how green everything is? ( find the greenness of some places truly fascinating)

We got to stay in the Anne Boleyn room, a room where Anne Boleyn supposedly stayed. When we opened the door (the key was no ordinary key either, it was one of those old fashioned keys, like the ones in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – I found that so awesome!) my jaw literally dropped. The room was so fantastic. There was a huge window overlooking the main square of the grounds and another castle tower. The beds were soft and comfy with giant fluffy comforters. There was even a fireplace! A real fireplace with a real fire roaring away in it. I welcomed that fireplace like an old friend. I was even able to stand upright in it (and I’m 5’2”). It was just so wonderful!

The beautiful Anne Boleyn room.

The fireplace. (we kept it roaring the entire night- it was wonderful)

The courtyard outside our room.

Isn't this magnificent?

When we were done exploring the castle my mom and I drove up to a nearby town for some dinner. All of the shops were sadly closed, so we didn’t do much exploring in that town, but we did manage to find some pubs that were open. We ended up going to a place called the Swan Inn, and let me tell you, this is where the trip gets beyond fantastic. So we sit down and order our food. I wasn’t too terrible hungry so I just ordered a ham sandwich and my mom got some kind of deconstructed shepherd’s pie. My goodness was that thing huge. My mom described it as a meal fit for a 500 pound man. Anyways, while I was eating my dinner, the dessert menu caught my eye. I took one look and saw this golden cake with some kind of syrup drizzled on top. I asked my mom if we could order it for dessert, and I’m just going to say that this dessert changed my life entirely. This has now become my new favorite dessert of all time (it was so good I don’t even remember what my favorite dessert was before this!) When the dessert reached the table, my eyes went bug-eyed. It looked so good. I let my mom have the first bite. Man, do I wish she had gotten her own, because as soon as I took my first bite, my eyes rolled in the back of my head. It was so moist, and hot, and soft, and syrupy and just… pure deliciousness! I kept secretly wanting my mom to stop taking little nibbles of it because I wanted it all to myself. Needless to say, I all but licked the plate clean, and trust me, if I were in a private setting, I would have!

The reason for my existence: Treacle Sponge Pudding

It is now my goal to find the perfect recipe for Treacle Sponge Pudding. I will not rest until I have found it. Sadly, most of the recipes I have found so far ask for golden syrup, something I can’t find anywhere!!!! Ok tantrum over. Sorry.

Like I said before, going to Thornbury was definitely the highlight of the entire trip.

And once more because I'm in love!
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