It’s Not You, It’s Me

Dear All,

I am a bit sad but also very excited at the same time. I am writing this post to tell you that after much consideration, I’ve decided I will temporarily focus my attention elsewhere.

My Chest of Wonders was always a hobby for me. As a creative outlet, it gave me so much – I’ve learned a great deal in the past 2 years. I still love blogging, cooking, creating recipes and sharing it with you, but I am currently working on a new project and after that and a nine to five, I just don’t think I’ll have the time to create content on a regular basis like I used to.

I wish I could keep doing it, but for the foreseeable future I’m going on a different path. This is not a farewell though, rather hitting pause on a few things to be able to focus on others. I am keeping the blog, but I might not update it every week like I used to.

So whether you are a Follower, Reader, or Visitor dropping by, thank you! Thank you for all the encouraging words left in the comments, for every like and click. I hope I will be seeing you soon.

Have a lovely week!

Love,

Fruzsi

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Carrot Cake, Because We’re So Ready For Spring

carrot cake

Let me start with a question: how come it’s a tradition to make carrot cake around (for) Easter when this popular root vegetable is going right out of season in spring? (Yes, carrots have a season too: late summer and fall, although they are available from storage year round)

Anyway. I think we’d all agree that every season is a good season to make something as delicious as a rich and moist carrot cake, late winter being no exception.

Everyone likes this decadent dessert a bit different spices, nuts, raisins or pineapple-wise and that’s fine. Make it the way you like it! I happen to be a (wal)nuts and for-the-love-of-all-that’s-holy-please-no-raisins kinda girl. And I use apples, sans pine. Different strokes for different folks!

carrot cake

As for the other single most important bit, the frosting – and this is guaranteed to make frowned foreheads across the pond – your cream cheese+butter+sugar combo is something I just can’t come to like. No offence, but I find it too sweet and thick.

To coat my cake, I substitute mascarpone for cream cheese. Let’s stop here for a sec: if you are wondering how cream cheese and mascarpone are different, in short cream cheese is tangier and mascarpone is milder. Mascarpone is made from cream coagulated with just acid, richer and creamier with a higher fat content. Cream cheese is made from milk with lactic bacteria, more acidic and with a lower fat content. I love both but in this recipe, I happen to like mascarpone better.

I also swap butter for whipped cream. A generous slathering of this airier, frothy filling suits my taste better but then again, it’s just a personal preference.

carrot cake

As is the way you arrange the cake. To give a fancier look for this otherwise simple dessert, I prefer layers and frosting, generous on top and thinner on the sides. I know the uniqueness of naked cakes has worn off a bit, but I’m still making them in 2018 and #notsorry.

Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Filling

Moist and deliciously spicy carrot cake filled with airy mascarpone whipped cream.

Ingredients

For the cake:

350 g carrots

1 medium apple

100 g whole wheat flour

200 g AP flour

100 g walnut meal

1 packet (15 g) baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

3 eggs

150 ml neutral vegetable oil

150 g brown sugar

For the filling:

250 g mascarpone

400 ml whipping cream

1 packet (7 g) vanilla sugar

Directions

  1. Generously butter and flour two 17 cm cake tins (6.5″).
  2. Peel, core and grate apple. Peel and grate carrots. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 150C (300F).
  4. In a large mixing bowl, mix flours, baking powder, salt, spices and walnut meal.
  5. In another bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and oil until frothy.
  6. Fold egg mixture into flour mixture. Add carrots and apple, mix until combined.
  7. Divide batter equally between the tins. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about an hour.
  8. Let cool 20 min before removing from tins. Cut both in half horizontally so you have 4 layers. Cool completely.
  9. Why layers are cooling, make filling: mix mascarpone and cream with an electric mixer on low to combine. Increase speed and whisk until stiff peaks form.
  10. Arrange cake. Refrigerate for 1 h before serving. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

Perfectly Creamy Rice Pudding with Coconut Milk

creamy rice pudding

Late-winter February. It’s the time of year when I tend to be in a meh type of mood, generally uninspired and unenthusiastic.

It’s probably the lack of sunshine and being stuck indoors. Yes, I work out, take my vitamins, eat my greens and have nothing against the occasional walk in the cold, but still… Hello, weather? Getting desperate for spring here!

When these blues hit, I consciously remind myself how there’s something to like in every season. You have to nip the feeling in the bud, otherwise you’ll end up in a downward spiral.

Luckily, a distraction usually does the trick. Starting a new book (just ordered anti-guru Sarah Knight’s new No F*cks Given Guide ‘You Do You’ which is guaranteed to make for a good laugh based on previous volumes), the annual closet overhaul, or a quick search to see what’s left of Zara Home’s winter sale? Whatever works!

And some cooking: making my No. 1 winter warmer, sweet and creamy rice pudding never disappoints. It’s funny how I never posted this when I make it so often. Now, I know some people think rice pudding is quite a humble food, but I assure you: when done right, it’s as good as it gets!

In my opinion, the best rice pudding is c.r.e.a.m.y. above everything else. That’s what I always aim at. With that in mind, there are a few tricks for making the perfect rice pudding. Also, some points where things can go south (been there, done that). Learn from my mistakes, read the following experience-based notes and go for it!

First, the rice. Over the years, I’ve tried different types (depending mainly on what was on hand to be honest). You’ll want to use medium-grain or short-grain rice here. It’s all about starch: the right amount thickens the pudding, while the grains stay tender through cooking without breaking apart. I’m not saying it’s impossible to make rice pudding with long-grain varieties like Basmati or Jasmine rice, but these are less starchy, take longer to cook and the result will be rather dry. My favorite rice for this recipe by far is Arborio.

Than there’s the milk. It’s a real hazard when it comes to your stove’s cleanliness – not watching the pot as the milk comes to a boil… need I go on? Be sure to keep a close eye on it while warming!

After you’ve added the rice, stir down regularly or it will catch on the bottom. Keep mixture at a gentle simmer, allowing time for the rice to cook. I find this quantity needs somewhere between 30-40 min. Test the rice for done-ness though (grains should be tender), do not rely on the clock completely.

Another thing also necessary for perfect creaminess  – you guessed it: fat. Use whole milk, full-fat coconut milk and heavy cream.

The egg yolks are responsible for that coveted custardy texture, but add hot liquid to the egg mixture too quickly, and the yolks will curdle. Troubleshoot tip: tempering. This means bringing the temperature of the eggs up slowly. Spoon a small amount of hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Keep adding milk until egg mixture is warmed up (this will take about a ladle of milk). Once done, pour warm egg-milk mixture back in the pot in a slow, thin stream, again whisking constantly.

This is a basic recipe, so feel free to flavor the hell out of it! Also, I think it’s perfectly good as it is, but sometimes I feel like putting the bowls of finished pudding under the broiler to brown the tops.

That said, my recipe for the perfectly creamy rice pudding:

Creamy Coconut Milk Rice Pudding

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Silky smooth rice pudding with fragrant coconut milk. Serves 4.

Ingredients

600 ml whole milk

1 can (400 ml) full-fat coconut milk

1/2 cup Arborio rice

2 egg yolks

1/4 tsp salt

100 g sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

200 ml heavy cream

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, bring milk and well-shaken coconut milk to a boil.
  2. Stir in rice, reduce heat to allow for a gentle simmer.
  3. Stir down regularly to ensure rice is not sticking to the bottom. Mixture will form a skin – just stir it back in.
  4. While rice is cooking, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, salt, vanilla and cream in a bowl big enough to accommodate the mixture and about a ladle of milk.
  5. Test rice for done-ness: taste a grain if it’s tender with no hard center.
  6. Once rice is cooked, remove pan from heat. Temper the egg mixture with a ladle of hot milk, than pour warmed egg mixture back into the pan in a slow stream, whisking constantly.
  7. Return saucepan to heat. Cook on medium, stirring, until pudding boils – it should be saucy but not soupy in consistency. In this phase, mixture will not yet resemble finished pudding. Don’t worry, the custard will set and thicken as it cools.
  8. Ladle rice pudding into bowls, let cool completely and refrigerate. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

Food Photography & Styling Workshop

I am not a particularly spontaneous person (and that’s an understatement), but last week an opportunity has presented itself and I had to make a quick decision. Fingers crossed I am not speaking too soon, but that decision might just turn out to be the deal breaker in taking My Chest of Wonders a step further.

I’ve experienced my first blogging blues and it has been a pity party over here lately. It was high time I clicked out of that tab, so this bit of good in the form of a workshop could not have come at a better time.

I always felt the lack of a local friend or acquaintance who shares my interest and taste, and since the idea of a tabletop styling and prop rental business first started forming in my head I was eagerly looking for someone I could have good chats with on the topic. Well, that person exists and she’s a total sweetheart too!

Zita Csigo is one of my country’s most established and well-known food stylists & photographers, also teaching tricks of the trade at her popular workshops. I was quick to respond to a sudden vacancy, took the day off from work and oh was it worth it!

Being my biggest critic, I wasn’t satisfied with my photos. When I got my DSLR I enrolled on a photography course to learn the basics, but limited knowledge and no constructive feedback put me in a place where taking photos for my posts became a bit of a nuisance. I knew my shots could (should) be better, just didn’t know how.

I brought two sets of images we made from the workshop to show you a bit of what I’ve learnt. All photos were taken without studio lights. The shots on the left were taken after I’ve selected and arranged the objects in a way I thought was fine. The improvements you see on the right were made by adjusting the light and following the basic rules of composition only. No editing was done on the images.

food photography workshop

food photography workshop

Besides the food photography know-how, we had a lengthy conversation on blogging and business, and I absolutely loved getting lost in Zita’s astonishing prop collection. Our aesthetic turns out to be quite similar (good sign for me!) so working together was really effortless. She also reassured me that my business idea is ripe for the picking which I consider the most valuable feedback I could get. I left inspired and with newfound motivation, so thank you again!

*Disclaimer: I have visited and paid for this service. What I write about business establishments on My Chest of Wonders represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship, commissions or gifts.*

Love,

Fruzsi

Let’s Do This 2018

begin again

Hello, Happy New Year and welcome back! I hope all of you had a wonderful and relaxing holiday.

The end of 2017 literally just whizzed by and it feels like I’ve been thrown into January. It has been a challenging time for me with new job responsibilities and an office move after which I had to reconsider my everyday routine, buy a car, and re-learn to drive. Driving was never my strong suit, but I try to think positively of having to face one of my biggest insecurities. Sitrep: I’m still scared sh*tless sometimes, but it’s better every day 😀

Oh, and Holidays.

All in all, a wee bit more anxiety than I would have cared for. I needed to cut myself some slack and so time away from the blog turned out to be a little longer than I originally planned, but I’m back now.

With a new year comes new-found motivation and inspiration, although if I’m being honest, I don’t quite see the exact direction I will be heading in 2018 just yet. Not everything needs to be planned though, so we shall see!

Achievment-wise, I have reached some of the goals I set for 2017. I also have failed some. My only resolution for this year is that I would be more determined, whatever my intentions will be. And so to kick off 2018, here’s my list of the things I would like to spend more time working on:

  1. Learn more about the rules, customs and traditions of properly serving and enjoying food. I am planning to share a guide for setting the table, so keep your eye out!
  2. Attend more workshops. The ones I did last year were properly fun and I had a great time learning new skills and meeting people.
  3. (Find the time to) create more content. I have a notebook I carry around with me full of ideas, it’s time to implement!
  4. Reach out more to fellow bloggers. Being more active with my networing is essential for this year.
  5. Earning the first income from the blog.

So there it is. Looking forward to what 2018 has in store!

What goals did you set for this year? Do you do resolutions? How succesful are you in keeping them? I’d love to hear it from you!

Love,

Fruzsi

Happy Holidays from My Blog to You!

christmas styling

Wishing you and yours a most joyous holiday season and a prosperous New Year! Also, I think this is the perfect time to express my appreciation and gratitude for the love and support of my dear readers. Thank you for visiting, liking, commenting and following! Stay safe and enjoy your vacation with family and friends – see you in 2018!

Love,

Fruzsi

Photo & styling: Anna Kvarnström

The Secret is Out: Please Welcome My Chest of Wonders Tabletop Styling and Prop Rentals!

heart balloons

First of all, I’d like to thank you all for following along with my blogging journey from the very beginning. I am so thankful for each and every click, like, share, comment and follow! Your support is invaluable and I want you to know how much I appreciate the time you take out of your day to check out the things I put out there.

As much as I enjoy blogging, lately I felt I was ready to take My Chest of Wonders a step further and so I’ve been working on a new project behind the scenes these past months.

And I have big news today! Beyond excited to announce that my tabletop styling and prop rental service is up and running!

There are many updates to the website in connection with starting this small biz: you can browse the items for rent in the product catalogue, see how rentals work in the terms and conditions menu, and learn about tabletop styling, tablescaping trends & styles.

I am also turning My Chest of Wonders bilingual – from now on I’ll provide all information on the website in Hungarian language as well.

The blog will continue in English with the same posting schedule, and I will do my best to post more on social media.

Check out what I’ve been up to! I hope you’ll love it as much as I love working on it!

Xo,

Fruzsi

Image by Laurel