Blackberry, Sage, and Cricket Margarita


 
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.

My goodness. The last few weeks have been pretty ridiculous! We are currently fostering a nursing mama cat and her five kittens! And far out, it is distracting. At first it was filled with stress about whether they were getting enough to eat, gaining weight fast enough etc, but now that they are starting to run around like little nuggets, the cute level is insanely distracting. They are starting to interact with us and each other, and I catch myself sitting on a cushion in front of their cage, just watching, far too often. Its the best, worst thing. They have settled in really nicely now though so I feel like I can finally get some stuff done, and only check on them 286236 times a day instead of 2835729384723 times. 

Happy Happy Margarita week! This year, there is a margarita week party hosted by the lovely Hola! Jalapeno. Right up until Cinco de Mayo, a load of bloggers will be posting their fave Margarita or Margarita inspired recipes! You can check out the full list over on Kate's site - she will update it as everyone posts throughout the week!

I wanted to go with a little twist on the classic margarita. Recently I made a big batch of sage simple syrup, which is my fave thing to add to soda water now that the weather is getting hotter. Seeing as I already had that in the fridge, I combined it with some blackberries, tequila and lime, and plopped it in a glass, rimmed with a quick sage salt. It was my first time making the sage salt, but it definitely will not be my last - it was packed full of flavour, and I can't wait to put it on everything! Everything

I also added something a little different to these margaritas - some good friends of ours have recently released a new product called Critter bitters! It's bitters infused with crickets, which I was super skeptical about at first, as I think most people are, but it's super delicious! The toasted Crickets lend a slightly smoky flavour. The philosophy behind it is that the eating of insects is the first viable solution to a global food shortage. They have a fairly minimal impact on the environment, and they are nutritionally dense. Critter bitters were developed as an introduction to eating insects - a way to get over the 'yuck' factor! Check them out here! If you don't have any, you can either leave out the bitters, or just use regular bitters. Big ups to Lucy from Makers of Trouble who is a bomb bartender and helped me with the recipe for this! 

 

 

Blackberry, sage, and cricket margarita
- Makes 1 drink -


Margarita
Sage salt to rim the glass
Small handful (approx 6-7) blackberries
1 oz (30ml) Fresh lime juice
2 oz (60ml) tequila
1 oz (30ml) Sage simple syrup
2 sleeves (2 dashes) Critter bitters, or regular bitters
Ice

Sage Salt
1/4 cup salt (I used Kosher)
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves

Sage Simple Syrup
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 cup (240ml) water
Large handful of fresh sage leaves (I used 7-8 "Sprigs")

 

- PROCESS -

SAGE SIMPLE SYRUP

Place sugar and water in a small pot. Heat over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat to medium, and bring the liquid to just shy of a simmer. Add the fresh sage leaves, and steep for 20-30 minutes. Remove leaves and allow to cool.

SAGE SALT

Place salt and sage leaves in a small food processor, blender or spice/coffee grinder. Pulse until well combined. Spread onto a plate and leave for 1-2 hours to dry. Can be used immediately, but make sure to dry well before storing the excess. 

MARGARITA

Run the cut edge of a lime around the rim of a chilled glass, and coat the rim of the glass with the sage salt. Fill the glass with ice. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker or jar, muddle together the blackberries and the lime juice. Add the tequila, sage syrup and bitters. Shake well to incorporate. Pour into prepared glass, and garnish as desired.

Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.

Carrot cake with cream cheese icing


 
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.

Easter weekend!! We don't really have a huge amount planned - work as usual! We are meant to be getting some foster kittens tomorrow (!!), but they have cancelled on us so many times that I'm not letting myself get excited until they are actually here. Aside from that we might make a few photography surfaces - we are having a surface making weekend soonish with some friends, so Rich and I just want to have a sneaky wee practice first to make sure there aren't any big hurdles that we haven't thought about before we get to the real deal!

I did however make a carrot cake yesterday, which to me is the perfect easter cake! (I'm not sure why though, maybe because rabbits eat carrots? Who knows). I just went with my standard carrot cake recipe, baked into 3 six inch tins. The thing that I really like about this recipe is that it bakes very flat, so there is minimal leveling to be done once it comes to stacking time!

I also had a play around with some cream cheese icing recipes. In the past my cream cheese icing has been super floppy and soft (yummmmmm  hahah), which makes it hopeless when it comes to piping and transportation. However if you add too much butter or sugar, it loses that punchy cream cheese flavour and you end up with something that tastes more like American Buttercream. So I made three different batches, each with different ratios of cream cheese : butter : icing sugar, and I think I managed to come up with a happy medium! This recipe still has a cream cheese taste, isn't too sweet or grainy, and sets up nicely in the fridge. It also pipes well, which to me is a huge win. 

I was originally going to decorate this with a few blobs here and there, but once I got started I realised that it was far too fun piping the blobs, and I had icing to use up, so I went for it! Mini eggs somehow made their way on there too at some point. This method of decoration is super easy and crazy effective - I just filled four piping bags with different coloured buttercream. Each was fitted with a different size french piping tip, and from there I just piped blobs all over the cake, adding in mini eggs here and there! I used an ateco 866 tip, and three wilton tips - the 32, 4b, and 21, but you could really use any size here, these were just the ones that I pulled out of my decorating box first! You can't go wrong with this decorating method - it's a great way to use up excess buttercream, you don't have to worry too much about a super smooth under coat, and it would be a fun project to make with kids! Plus. Carrot cake and cream cheese. Can't go wrong really. 

A few wee things: 

  • I made this in 3 6-inch cake tins. I totally understand that not everyone will have these, so you could also make it in two 8-inch tins, or just do it all in one 10-inch tin and slice it in half before filling! Just ensure that you adjust the cooking time accordingly if you make it in a larger tin - approx 45 minutes for 8-inch tins, and 50-60 minutes for a 10-inch. Check it with a skewer in the centre of the cake - you want it to come out clean.
  • The blobs use up a fair amount of buttercream. If you were just wanting to do a standard carrot cake with cream cheese icing and not have the blobs, I have included two quantities of ingredients down below. It would also look nice with just a super rustic coat of icing, and topped with some easter eggs. 
  • I found that the trick to a nice firm cream cheese icing which was best for piping was to use cold cream cheese, and butter that is only just at room temperature, to make sure that it stays nice and firm. I also popped it in the fridge while I was waiting for the crumb coat of the cake to chill down, and just gave it a good stir before using it again. If at any time you find it is getting too soft, just return it to the fridge for 10-15 minutes. The icing in the piping bags was at room temp for well over two hours, along with being handled, and still held its shape well though, so you should be fine!
 

 

Carrot cake with cream cheese icing
- Makes one six inch, three layered cake -

Carrot Cake recipe from Annabel Langbein

Carrot Cake
2 cups (500g) raw sugar
1 cup (250ml) neutral oil such as canola
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (140g) wholemeal flour
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
3 cups (360g, approx 3 medium carrots) grated carrot

Cream cheese Icing

Quantities needed for decorating without "blobs"
225g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature for 30 minutes
450g (16oz) full-fat cream cheese, cold
900g (7 1/4 cups, 2 lbs) Icing sugar
Juice of one Lemon

Quantities needed if decorating with "blobs"
340g (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature for 30 minutes
675g (24oz) full-fat cream cheese, cold
1.35kg (10 3/4 cups, 3 lbs) icing sugar
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons

To decorate
Mini eggs or other easter eggs (optional)

 

 

- PROCESS -

CARROT CAKE

Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Grease and flour 3 6-inch cake tins. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with an electric beater, mix together the sugar, eggs and oil until well combined. Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and spices, and mix on low for 1-2 minutes until combined. Add carrot, and mix well.

Divide the mixture between the three tins. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the centre of the cake bounces back when lightly pressed, and a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the cake tins for 15 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. If you are making ahead, wrap well in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

CREAM CHEESE ICING

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese on high until pale and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add icing sugar, and mix on low to combine. Turn the mixer to high and beat for another 3-4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add lemon juice and beat until well combined. Store in the fridge until ready to use, and either beat again with a mixer, or mix well with a spatula before using.

ASSEMBLY

Level cakes if necessary. Place the first layer of cake on a rotating cake turntable or cake stand. Spread with a layer of cream cheese icing, and smooth down with an offset spatula. Repeat with the next two layers. Spread icing evenly over the top and sides of the cake using an offset spatula, smoothing the top first, then the sides with a bench or icing scraper. Level off the top using the edge of the scraper, or an offset spatula. Ensure that the cake is evenly coated with a smooth layer of icing. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. 

Divide the remaining buttercream between four bowls. Using a small amount of gel food colouring, tint the buttercream your desired colours, leaving one white. Place into four piping bags, fitted with different sized french piping tips. 

Pipe 'blobs' of buttercream over the surface of the cake - start with a few big blobs of one colour, and then go in with each colour to fill in the gaps. Continue until the sides and top of the cake are covered. Add easter eggs where you see fit. 

Rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing that is super easy to pipe. The cake is moist and flavourful, and the icing has the perfect amount of sweetness and cream cheese punch.

Espresso Honey S'mores


 
Honey marshmallows and dark chocolate sandwiched between espresso graham crackers. The perfect anytime treat. Amazing toasted, or as they are.
Honey marshmallows and dark chocolate sandwiched between espresso graham crackers. The perfect anytime treat. Amazing toasted, or as they are.
Honey marshmallows and dark chocolate sandwiched between espresso graham crackers. The perfect anytime treat. Amazing toasted, or as they are.
Honey marshmallows and dark chocolate sandwiched between espresso graham crackers. The perfect anytime treat. Amazing toasted, or as they are.
Honey marshmallows and dark chocolate sandwiched between espresso graham crackers. The perfect anytime treat. Amazing toasted, or as they are.
Honey marshmallows and dark chocolate sandwiched between espresso graham crackers. The perfect anytime treat. Amazing toasted, or as they are.
Honey marshmallows and dark chocolate sandwiched between espresso graham crackers. The perfect anytime treat. Amazing toasted, or as they are.
Honey marshmallows and dark chocolate sandwiched between espresso graham crackers. The perfect anytime treat. Amazing toasted, or as they are.
Honey marshmallows and dark chocolate sandwiched between espresso graham crackers. The perfect anytime treat. Amazing toasted, or as they are.

S'mores aren't really a thing in New Zealand. We don't have graham crackers, and our marshmallows don't go anywhere near as melty as the American ones. So our versions were always kinda crappy, but still delicious and sugar coma inducing nonetheless. Whenever we went on holiday to the States, they always seemed like a huge treat. 

Over the last year or so I have made my own marshmallow a few times. I am always super surprised at how it becomes this bouncy pillow of squishy amazingness, with the ability to totally destroy your kitchen (Trust me on this - never attempt to put marshmallow in a piping bag without some sort of aid. I found it in my ear like, a week later, and had to wipe down 3 of my 4 kitchen walls). However, I have managed to develop a couple of coping strategies that makes marshmallows a much less stressful situation than they used to be, so now I make them on the regular! The super fun bit is that you can flavour them with anything that is liquid / soluble in liquid! 

These S'mores were a product of another amazing baking day with my friend / NYC Mum Jill! We always have the best time ever - and we are slowly getting more productive as the days go on, which can likely be attributed to the fact that the days are getting longer, which prolongs the race to get the last few shots before the light fades. However, Jill just got a new PUPPY who is the cutest ever, so productivity levels are TBC for the near future I think, which I'm totally fine with, because PUPPY.

We were both lucky enough to have been sent some beautiful patterned rolling pins from our friends over at Propped, so we wanted to come up with something which would help show them off. We used a graham cracker recipe from Dorie Greenspan's amazing book, riffing on it slightly and adding espresso to give the crackers a deeper flavour profile. We paired them with some honey marshmallows, drizzled them in dark chocolate, and there we were! And oh my goodness. The flavours compliment each other perfectly - there is a little honey in the graham crackers, accentuated by the lovely honey flavour in the marshmallow, and the dark chocolate ties it all together. 100% would make again. (100% have made again, and it's only been a week since we made these!) The rolling pins also did an amazing job at imprinting the cookies with their pattern - we carefully rolled the pin over the dough just before placing into the freezer.

A few wee things: 

  • We added espresso to the crackers - if you aren't a coffee person, simply skip the coffee, and up the cinnamon to 1 teaspoon
  • Marshmallow can be super sticky and messy if you let it. A good way to avoid this is to have everything ready to go before you start - have your tin greased, and some "marshmallow dust", which is equal parts icing sugar and corn starch, ready for dusting.
  • A lightly oiled spatula will be your best friend when you are smoothing down the marshmallow. Once it is fairly flat, you can also get in there with wet fingers and finish off the smoothing. 
  • When you cut the marshmallow, dust the knife with marshmallow dust between cuts to help reduce stickiness.
  • Take care to not over whip your marshmallow. 5-7 minutes seems to be the sweet spot!
  • You need a stand mixer for the marshmallows, because they tend to take some heavy whipping. A candy thermometer is also super important. I use this one, which is perfect for me because it has an alarm on it! A scale will also be handy - measuring volume of honey sucks. Weighing it is way easier. Trust me. 
  • We made the marshmallow in these photos in a 9" x 9" tin, however I re-tested with a 9" x 13" and found that it made a much more manageable size when it comes to eating them!

 

 

 

Espresso and Honey S'mores
- Makes approximately 20 S'mores -

Marshmallows adapted from Bravetart, Graham crackers adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Honey Marshmallows
21g (0.75oz, or 3 packets) gelatine
114g (4 oz, 114ml) cold water,
155g Liquid honey
114g (4oz, 114ml) water
400g (14oz) sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla paste, or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean

Marshmallow "Dust"
1/2 cup (65g) powdered sugar
1/2 cup (65g) Corn Starch

Espresso Graham Crackers
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
1/4 cup (100g) liquid honey
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup (140g) Whole wheat flour
2 1/4 cups (350g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
2 Tbsp freshly ground coffee
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup (150g) packed brown sugar
7 Tbsp (100g) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Assembly
150g Good quality dark chocolate, melted

 

 

- PROCESS -

MARSHMALLOW

Grease a 9" x 13" baking tin with neutral oil or butter. Combine the powdered sugar and corn starch and set aside. This is your "Marshmallow dust".

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cold water and gelatine. Mix well with a fork, and leave to bloom while you prepare the sugar syrup. 

In a medium pot, combine the water, honey, vanilla, and sugar. Heat over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally. Heat until the syrup reaches 240˚f / 120˚c, then remove from the heat and leave to cool to 210˚f / 100˚c.

Turn the mixer on to medium, and mix for a few seconds to help break up the bloomed gelatin. With the mixer running, VERY carefully pour the hot sugar syrup into the mixer. Turn the speed up to high, and whip for 5-7 minutes, until the marshmallow has doubled in volume, has turned white, and holds somewhat of a peak when you stop the mixer and lift out the whisk. 

Scrape the marshmallow into the prepared tin using a lightly oiled rubber spatula. Smooth the surface using an oiled offset spatula, or back of a spoon. Use wet fingers to help the smoothing process if needed. Dust liberally with the marshmallow dust. Allow to cure for 3-4 hours.

Carefully turn out onto a board, and dust the entire surface with the powdered sugar and corn starch mix. Using a sharp knife dusted with marshmallow dust, cut into 2" x 3" pieces (or the same size as you have made your crackers). Lightly dust the cut surfaces of the marshmallow with the marshmallow dust to help avoid them sticking together.

GRAHAM CRACKERS

Combine the milk, honey and vanilla in a small jug.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, coffee, salt, and brown sugar. Pulse briefly to combine. 

Add the butter to the food processor, and pulse until the mixture has a crumbly texture. Slowly add the milk and honey mixture, pulsing to combine. Continue to pulse until a dough comes together that balls around the blade of a food processor. 

Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, and divide in two. Wrap up one half of the dough while you work with the second half. 

Roll the first half of the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper, until it is very thin, approximately 1/8 inch, or 3mm (Roll thinner than you think, as the crackers will rise in the oven). If you are creating a pattern on the dough, peel off the top layer of parchment, carefully roll the patterned rolling pin over the surface of the dough, then replace the parchment sheet. Place the dough, still between the parchment sheets, on a baking tray, and transfer to the freezer. Repeat with the second half of the dough, and transfer to the freezer. Freeze for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Remove the first sheet of dough from the freezer, and peel off the top layer of parchment. Using a ruler and a pastry wheel or knife, cut the cookies into a grid of 2" x 3" rectangles, either re-rolling scraps, or leaving them in place to snack on later. Leave the dough as one piece rather than separating the cookies - you will do this once they come out of the oven. Repeat the cutting process with the second tray, and store in the freezer while the first tray bakes. (Unless your oven can take two trays of cookies at once, you lucky dog)

Transfer the cut dough, on the parchment, to a baking tray. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the cookies are a deep golden brown colour. Remove from the oven, sit for 5 minutes, then go over the cut lines with a pastry wheel or sharp knife. Leave to cool completely before breaking into individual crackers. Repeat with the second tray.

ASSEMBLY

Spread a graham cracker with melted chocolate. Place a marshmallow on top, and top with a second graham cracker. Serve immediately. Marshmallows can be toasted with a blow torch if desired! Store leftover crackers and marshmallows individually, and assemble more s'mores as needed.

Honey marshmallows and dark chocolate sandwiched between espresso graham crackers. The perfect anytime treat. Amazing toasted, or as they are.