Who doesn’t love nutella? Slathered generously on toast or in a french crepe (mmm, french crepes), filled in fancy cupcakes or swirled through ice cream…endless possibilities are to be had with the amazing, world-famous chocolate hazelnut spread.
I recently used it to fill some yo-yos (the cookie, not the toy) because I couldn’t be bothered with making buttercream frosting. Also the idea of having butter cookies, filled with buttercream made me cringe from the thought of butter overdose. I love butter, mind you, just not in multiple doses.
Yo-yo cookies are sometimes referred to as melting moments – because they are crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth. Good with a cup of freshly brewed tea or a cold glass of milk.
The cookies took less than 30 minutes to prepare and bake. It’s the waiting time taken to cool before I could fill them and eat them that was more excruciating. But do be patient, cool cookies completely, or else you’ll risk the nutella melting and dripping over its sides. It helps also to leave filled cookies in the fridge for a while before serving, just to let the nutella spread firm up a little.
Then, enjoy every crumbly, buttery, chocolatey goodness – it’s worth the wait.
Makes about 20
- 1 3/4 stick (185 g) butter, softened
- 1/3 cup (60g) icing sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (185g) plain flour, sifted
- 1/3 cup (60g) custard powder, sifted
There are days when I feel like baking and in my head I picture elaborate layered cakes with glossy frosting or perfect pastries with melt in the mouth creme patissiere. The reality is I’d rather get the baking done quickly so I can sit in front of the TV and stuff my face with cake. The sooner done, the better. And who am I kidding? Elaborate layered cakes only live somewhere in my head probably from a snapshot of someone else’s hard work on the web or in cookbooks.
So at times like these, I could pop around the corner to the mini supermarket and get a loaf of factory made shrink wrapped madeira cake (triple yuck) or I take out my cake tray, pause the TV and get cracking on this.
Red velvet cake and cream cheese frosting are like BFFs. So when I discovered that cream cheese which I thought was in my fridge didn’t really exist, I resorted to cream cheese frosting’s much lighter and healthier cousin – meringue frosting. Sweeeeeet.
Red Velvet Sheet Cake with Meringue Frosting
Cake recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Smitten Kitchen
- 1 cup canola oil (instead of shortening which was in the original recipe)
- 1-3/4 cup Sugar
- 2-1/2 cups Cake Flour
- 1-1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 2 whole Eggs
- 1 cup Buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1-1/2 teaspoon Vinegar
- 1-1/2 ounce, fluid Red Food Coloring
- 1-1/2 teaspoon Cocoa Powder (not Dutch processed, just the regular stuff)
Preheat oven to 180 C (350F) degrees. Thoroughly spray a large sheet cake pan with baking spray, be generous with the spray.
Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.
Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
Pour batter into prepared sheet cake pan. Even out the surface. Bake for 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove pan from oven and allow cake to cool completely before icing.
Italian Meringue Frosting
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 egg whites (room temperature)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring
2 tablespoons sugar
Mix 2/3 cup sugar and water together and bring to a boil until a temperature of 275 is reached on a candy thermometer.
As the syrup reaches its temperature, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, 2 tablespoons sugar until the whites form soft peaks.
Remove syrup from heat add the syrup in a small stream while continuing to beat the mixture with the electric mixer.
Beat about 3 more minutes. The mixture will form glossy peaks and thicken.
Add the vanilla and mix a bit more.
Frost the cake immediately.
*Although this frosting is super easy to make and is much healthier than cream cheese, it doesn’t keep as well. Maximum two days refrigerated – that is if your cake lasts that long to begin with!
We all know Heston Blumenthal is amazing. Usually his recipes involve stuff that sounds more like a science experiment – dry ice, paint sprays, super chillers etc but his latest TV gig ‘How to cook like Heston’ has a few recipes that are meant for regular folks! Hooray!
The first episode was about eggs. How to poach, scramble, make scotch eggs and bacon and egg ice-cream like Heston. Yeah right, bacon and egg ice-cream…let me just pop to the store and get some dry ice after work and I’ll whip some up! Not!
To be fair, this particular lemon tart recipe from the egg episode was easy to follow and not bizarre in any way.
The only tart tin I had was a shallow one so I couldn’t get the same proportion of luscious lemon custard to pastry the same way Heston did. Actually I had more pastry than lemon custard but it tasted really, really good. All lemony, smooth and sweet. Oh alright, I need to get a proper tart tin and try this again.
Original recipe below from ‘Heston Blumenthal at Home’
(I halved the recipe to fit a shallow 30 cm tart tin)
For the pastry
300g plain flour
150g unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
120g icing sugar
3 large egg yolks
Seeds from ½ vanilla pod
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
1 egg for the egg wash
For the filling
Finely grated zest and juice of 5 lemons
300ml double cream
390g white caster sugar
9 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1.Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flour, butter and salt on low speed until it becomes a sand like texture (approximately 2-3 minutes).
2.In the meantime, in a tall container blitz together the icing sugar and egg yolks with a hand blender.
3.Add the vanilla seeds and lemon zest to the egg yolk mixture and then add to the bowl in the mixer and continue to mix on low speed until fully combined and a very soft dough has formed (approximately 3-5 minutes).
4.Mould the dough into a flat rectangle and wrap it in clingfilm before placing in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
5.Roll the pastry between two sheets of baking paper to a thickness of 2mm, using two stacked 2 pence coins as guides, then place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
6.Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC/gas mark 5. Line a 26cm tart tin (2.5cm deep) with the pastry making sure to press it into the edges and leaving the pastry hanging over the edge.
7.Take a sheet of baking paper and scrunch it up several times to eliminate any sharp edges. Prick the dough with a fork all over the surface. Place the baking paper on top and add enough coins (or baking beans) to fill the casing ¼ of the way up. Place in the preheated oven to bake for approximately 20 minutes or until fully cooked.
8.In the meantime, mix some of the leftover dough with an egg using a hand blender.
9.After 20 minutes, remove the baking paper and coins and, using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of the tart with the dough and egg mixture. This ‘liquid pastry’ will ensure that any holes will be sealed. Return the tart to the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
10.Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool completely.
11.When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 120ºC/gas mark ½. Place the baked pastry case in the oven to warm up.
12.Put all the filling ingredients into a bowl and mix together using a spatula. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and allow to warm up until the temperature reaches 60ºC. At this point, strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a jug. With a spoon, remove the bubbles from the surface of the liquid.
13.Slide the oven rack out a bit, then pour the mixture into the warm pastry case inside the oven. Fill the case to the top, slide the rack carefully back in, and bake the tart for approximately 25 minutes or until the temperature of the filling reaches 70ºC. Allow to cool completely at room temperature.
14.Just before serving, trim the overhanging pastry by running a sharp knife round the top of the tart tin and discard. .
I wanted to bake him something different. Something I haven’t made before. I thought long and hard and changed my mind a dozen times. Turned out, I spent way too much time thinking about what to bake that my man’s birthday came and went and the cake was only still a vision in my head. We celebrated his birthday with a amazing meal at Nobu. But still no cake.
Finally I got my act together (a couple weeks late) and decided to go with the classic, old fashioned Blackforest Cake. Yes, for those in the know – I still have cherries and this was a great recipe for using up more of them.
The traditional blackforest cake originated from Germany, and is called Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (black forest cherry torte). Kirschwasser, otherwise commonly known to the rest of us simply as Kirsch is a clear liquor distilled from cherries. Cherries are steeped in a sugar syrup with Kirsch before it is used for the cake. In my opinion, the kirsch-soaked cherries are the best parts of the cake. Well, the chocolate cake, whipped cream and shaved chocolates bits are great too, but the cherries…mmmm…
In my recipe, I used freshly frozen cherries instead of the canned ones, which is often what is recommended in recipes because they already come well soaked in syrup. Many use the canned syrup with kirsch or rum, or on its own if a non-alcohol cake is required.
I prepared the fresh cherries, with a simple sugar syrup…and white port. Oh yes, I broke the rules and used port. I didn’t have kirsch nor rum, only port. There’s sweetness, there’s alchohol…so why not? It worked really well anyway. Rules what rules? I got me some port-soaked cherries and cake…and it was gooooood.
The cake part was a no-brainer – I used my all time favourite chocolate cake recipe and the rest of it was just construction work. So easy yet it can look so impressive.
Happy belated birthday to my favourite person in this world!
Makes a 9 inch, double layered cake
About 500 – 700g pitted cherries
25g caster sugar (more if cherries are not very sweet)
55ml port (kirsch, rum or brandy if you want to substitute)
1/2 cup water
Add cherries, sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let it simmer till the water is reduced by half and becomes syrupy. Add in liquor, remove from heat. Let cherries soften and soak in the liquid until cool.
600ml thickened cream
2 tbsp soft icing sugar
Whip cream until almost stiff, then add in sugar and whip until cream holds peaks.
Half the cooled cake horizontally, brush both layers of the cake with some of the syrup and port mixture. Some people like the cake to have more syrup and some prefer the cake without – so it’s up to you how much syrup to soak the cake with. Just don’t drown it.
Spread whipped cream over the bottom layer of cake, and distribute soaked cherries evenly over the cream.
Gently lay top layer of cake over and top it with more cream. Decorate with piped cream, shaved dark chocolate and cherries.
Yesterday was the last day of chinese new year. I missed it completely – not that I was going to do anything special but at least I won’t look like a doof and continue greeting friends with an enthusiastic ‘gong hei fatt choy’ (typical chinese greeting wishing others prosperity for the new year). This year’s ‘celebration’ for my half-white hubster and me included…hmm…nothing. The only thing that saved the dismal chinese heritage in me was the re-creation of one of our favourite chinese new year goodies – pineapple tarts.
Calling these cookies a tart can be very confusing because they are not tart-like in any way. Okay, the original version which I used to make may resemble a tart (somewhat). This was what I did back in London – using a shot glass, coke bottle cap and a knife (creatively unprofessional but hey, it worked!)
Until I get my hands on the actual pineapple tart mould (only available in Singapore/Malaysia), I shall only attempt this new version which is rolled up like a mini pillow – with the buttery, crumbly pastry encasing a little cocoon of sticky pineapple jam. Anyway, these pineapple tarts were lucky. Their existence (albeit a short one) came close to being nulled. I was ambitiously planning to make them in time for the first week of chinese new year. I even bought the pineapples but procrastination took over and the pineapples sat in the bags they came in for a week in the muggy summer heat, and rotted away. Ew…not nice.
I didn’t really want to disappoint the hubs – pineapple tarts are one of his faves – so I went and got new pineapples the following week and got down to it. With hands covered in dough and jam, I finally churned these pineapple pillows out. Those of you who are Australia Masterchef fans will know who Billy is. He’s the queen of desserts and I thought it will not be a bad move using his recipe. And it wasn’t a bad move. The pastry which is what makes or breaks the tarts, turned out the way I wanted it – all buttery and crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth-y.
The jam making process was straightforward enough – no dramas there, and I heeded Billy’s advice to pre-roll the jam before delving deep into pastry rolling and shaping. It seriously helped cut back on time and the potential mess it could create and the pre-rolled jam looked all cute and ready to play their part.
Considering I had 15 days of chinese new year and only managed to bake one batch of pineapple tarts, perhaps I should start planning for Easter now. What do people bake for Easter anyway?
Adapted from A Table for Two
Pineapple Jam Filling:
3 baby pineapples (or 2 cans of shredded pineapples)
200 gram sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 tbsp honey (or 150g liquid glucose)
2 tbsp wheat flour ( or all purpose flour)
1. Slice and grate pineapples till fine. You can use a food processor do grate it.
2. Strain the grated pineapple till dry.
3. Let it simmer in a pot till the juice dries up. Add sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick and clove.
4. Stir till the pineapple is thick and dry. Add honey (or liquid glucose)
5. Stir till the pineapple becomes sticky and jammy.
6. Add wheat flour. Continue to stir for about 10 minutes.
7. Leave to cool and shape into small balls.
250 gram butter
50 gram icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg yolk (for glazing)
350 gram plain flour (all purpose flour)
50 gram corn flour
IMPORTANT: YOU MUST first roll the pineapple jam filling into balls, resembling a silkworm cocooon. Set aside on a plate.
1. Cream butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until light. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, until well combined. Add vanilla essence and salt and whisk until fluffy.
2. Fold in sifted dry ingredients (plain flour & corn flour) and mix to form a dough. It should be a light crumbly shortbread texture.
3. Roll a tablespoonful of dough into a 5-7cm long tube in your palm, then gently press down with index finger to flatten the dough into an oblong shape, around 0.5cm thickness and 3-4cm wide. You will get the hang of it after a few trials.
4. Place the rolled-out pineapple jam ball on the edge of the strip and roll the dough to wrap around it to form a small elongated roll. Do not overlap pastry. Place the roll on a greased baking tray. Repeat until all dough mixture and jam filling is used up.
5. Preheat oven at 180°C. Use a fork and draw lines on top of the tarts. Brush the rolls with beaten egg yolk. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks before storing in an airtight jar.
New Year’s eve 2012 = sugar overload. What better way to welcome the new year than to be on a high…and if you’re not big on suffering a hangover on New Year’s day, then I would recommend a sugar high from a dessert party. Our friends invited us to their place for a New Year’s eve party to bring in the new year and watch the fireworks, and all guests were asked to bring a dessert. Brilliant!
Obviously, I had to bring something with cherries in it (from our Tassie haul) and I was tossing up between a cherry pie, cherry tart or cherry cupcakes. Cherry frangipane tart won the toss up and I went in search for a reasonably fuss free recipe.
After setting aside enough fresh cherries to give to friends and for our own TV snacking, I still had about 3 kg left. These needed to be pitted before I could make the tart, and freeze for future use.
If you’ve tried pitting cherries using a knife, you would have found that it’s not an easy job and the cherries tend to get mushy from all the man-handling. I found the easiest way to pit cherries without one of those fancy schmancy cherry pitters is to use a paper clip.
Yup you read that right! What you see there is a bent out of shape paper clip. Just search on YouTube for videos on how to pit cherries using a paper clip – you’ll find quite a number out there. It’s easy and very effective.
So back to the tart – I love a good frangipane filling and was looking forward to encasing those sweet cherries in it. Frangipane is usually made from almonds but I have heard of other variations with walnuts and pistachios. Mmm the pistachio version sounds divine but I stuck to the classic almond frangipane this time.
The dessert party was fabulous – there were meringues, baklavas, chocolates, cheesecake slices, italian cookies, ice cream and of course fresh cherries and my cherry frangipane tart. Pity I didn’t have my camera on me to take the full spread of desserts, but a good friend did snap a few of the cherry frangipane tart while I was serving it up…thanks Kelvin!
What a sweet way to celebrate the passing of 2011 and the welcoming of a new one. Have a great 2012 everyone! January is almost over – let’s make the most out of the next 11 months!
CHERRY FRANGIPANE TART
Adapted from Joy of Baking
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (45 grams) almond meal (flour)
1 tablespoon (12 grams) all purpose flour
30 fresh pitted cherries
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
To make pastry:
1. Beat butter and sugar in your mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add beaten egg until just incorporated.
2. Sift flour and salt together, add to the butter and egg mixture. Mix until it comes together to form a dough. Turn it out on a dusted work bench, knead lightly just to bring the dough together. Flatten and form the dough into a disc, wrap with cling wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Have ready an 8 – 9 inch (20 – 23 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into an 11 – 12 inch (28 – 30 cm) circle that is about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). To make sure it is the right size, take your tart pan, flip it over, and place it on the rolled out pastry. The pastry should be about an inch larger than pan.
4. When the pastry is rolled to the desired size, lightly roll pastry around your rolling pin, dusting off any excess flour as you roll. Unroll onto top of tart pan. Never pull pastry or you will get shrinkage (shrinkage is caused by too much pulling of the pastry when placing it in the pan). Gently lay in pan and with a small floured piece of pastry, lightly press pastry into bottom and up sides of pan. Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to get rid of excess pastry. With a thumb up movement, again press dough into pan. Roll rolling pin over top again to get rid of any extra pastry. Prick bottom of dough (this will prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes). Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to chill the butter and to rest the gluten in the flour.
5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line unbaked pastry shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill tart pan with pie weights, rice or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface. Bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove weights and cool crust on wire rack before filling.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).
Frangipane and cherry filling:
1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the almond meal and flour and beat until it forms a smooth paste. Fill the cooled tart pastry with the filling and spread it evenly.
2. Arrange the cherries in the frangipane filling. Bake for about 25 -35 minutes, or until the frangipane is puffed and light brown in color. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, dust with confectioner’s sugar.
Best served with a dollop of cream or vanilla ice cream.
Christmas is a time for caring and sharing. The best way to brighten someone’s season is to share some sugar. Add touches of sweetness to the last few crazy days before the Christmas holidays. I started making cookies last year as Christmas cheer and gifting them to close friends and colleagues. This is a tradition I’d like to keep for as long as it gives me joy to bake and share.
I saw this gorgeous creation on one of my favourite blogs and I knew straightaway that it would be my 2011 Christmas cookie. To make it an even sweeter deal, it’s a shortcut recipe using box cake mix! Bliss. You can’t imagine how much time that saved me.
There’s something about red velvet cake or cookies that is deliciously beautiful. The white chocolate drizzle set against the rich red cookie is a perfect Christmas picture.
The cheesecake part of the cookie is really the filling in the cookie. It’s like a pleasant surprise to an already yummy cake-like cookie. I love how easy it was to make these, and how much more satisfying it was to bring a smile to those who received them.
Add a few pieces of string, a plastic bag, a cardboard with pretty words and voila! A package of Christmas cheer.
I’m off to Tasmania with the hubs and I’m looking forward to a week of sunshine, hiking, beaches and catching up with old friends over good food and drinks.
Have a safe and happy Christmas everyone! Thank you for your support and encouragement for droolfactor this year. See y’all in 2012 for more yummy goodness!
RED VELVET CHEESECAKE COOKIES
Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod
Makes 10 giant cookies
For the cookies:
1 box red velvet cake mix (I used White Wings Devilish Red Velvet)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cheesecake filling:
110g cream cheese, at room temperature
65gm icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the white chocolate drizzle:
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips, melted
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together cake mix, flour, eggs, oil and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap.Refrigerate for at least two hours.
For the cheesecake filling, using a mixer, combine cream cheese, icing sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Using a teaspoon, scoop out cheesecake filling and place on a plate. Continue scooping out cheesecake filling into teaspoon balls until you have 10. Place plate in the freezer and freeze for at least two hours.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into ten equal portions. On a piece of cling film, roll a portion of the dough into a ball, flatten it (I found it easier manipulating the dough using the cling film as it sticks to the hand and fingers and not on the cling film).
Place a teaspoon of cheesecake filling in the center and wrap the cookie dough around the filling. Gently roll into a ball and place on prepared baking sheet and flatten it slightly till it becomes a thick even disc. Note: Original recipe did not require flattening of the dough into a disc which resulted in a thick cookie. I believe the spreading of the cookie will vary depending on the cake mix. Test bake one cookie first just to be on the safe side.
Only bake 3 or 4 cookies at a time. The cookies are large and will spread. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until the cookies begin to crackle. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove from baking sheet to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.
Melt the white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl or over a double-boiler. Drizzle the white chocolate over the cooled cookies. Let the cookies set until the chocolate hardens.
When the rest of the world prepare for winter and the Christmas holidays, I’m bracing myself for summer and my first summer Christmas after four blissful wintry ones. It feels weird. No more warm apple ciders or spicy gluhwein, instead of Starbucks Christmas cups filled with Gingerbread Latte, it’s Christmas blend frappes. BBQ and fresh salads take the place of roasted dinners and hearty stews. Stash away the woolly scarves, gloves and coats, bring on the sunblock, bikinis and flip flops. It’s a summer Christmas down under and yes it’s going to take some getting used to again, but I’ll cherish it all with open (and soon-to-be tanned) arms. I’ll miss my white Christmas, but I’m game for a change. Well at least for one year anyway.
Not the point of this post, which is really about a boy’s birthday cupcakes. Naturally, when I think of boys (actually men in their 30s in this case), I think of darker colours and flavours – perhaps dark chocolate, coffee, maybe a cheeky dash of alcohol…
I had none of that, and I wasn’t quite inspired that day to go the dark way. Blame the bright and beautiful summer days. So I opted for blue. Blueberries in this case – a simple, moist vanilla cake with juicy blueberries topped with a decadent cream cheese frosting.
Blueberry cupcakes – good for a boy, good for summery days.
Adapted to make 12
(original recipe yields 24 – 30, and quantity stated in brackets)
97.5 g cake flour (1 3/4 cups)
70 g plain flour(1 1/4 cups)
225 g sugar (2 cups)
1/2 tbsp baking powder (1 tbsp)
pinch of salt (3/4 tsp)
115 g butter, cut into cubes, room temp (1 cup)
2 eggs (4 eggs)
1/2 cup milk (1 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract (2 tsp)
3/4 cup blueberries, plus 1 tbsp flour (1 1/2cups / 2 tbsp flour)
1. Preheat oven to 160 deg celcius. Line cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl before each addition. Beat the batter until ingredients are thoroughly combined, but do not overbeat.
4. In a medium bowl, gently toss the blueberries with 1 tablespoon of flour, then carefully fold the blueberries in the batter.
4. Use a large scoop to divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 – 24 minutes.
4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Original quantity for 24 – 30 cupcakes stated in brackets
113 g cream cheese (8 oz)
57.5 g butter, softened to room temp (1 cup)
160g confectioners sugar sifted (2 pounds)
*Note: If I had halved the original recipe, I should have about 450g confectioners sugar but I think that is waaaayyyy too much, so I adapted it and only used 160 g.
1. In a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together, cream cheese and butter until well combined.
2. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar until thoroughly incorporated and smooth.
This one was created out of boredom. I’m what you may call a ‘lady of leisure’ nowadays except that shopping, afternoon teas, manicures and massages are not the order of the day. I’m not THAT kind of lady of leisure. Most of the time, I’m on the computer doing some freelance design work, looking for a job, watching TV, going to the gym and cooking. It’s become quite a routine actually and one that I’m kinda ready to give up (well, almost). I do have some activities I have yet to do – like museum visits, taking up a new sport, charity work etc. All talk for the moment, I might just get my butt off the couch and make them happen. Might.
So anyway, I felt like baking one day and had some of that wonderful fig jam from my trip to a berry farm recently, and I had one apple left in my crisper. I know my crisper sounds quite pathetic, it usually have several fresh veggies and fruit in it, but on this day that I decided to bake, the solo apple was it. Either that or it was half a head of cabbage…Hmm.
I browsed through some websites, looked through my cookbooks and decided that I’ll whip up a cake that used both the fig jam and apple. I also threw in some leftover walnuts that I had and the whole combination was actually quite delish.
The cake turned out moist, thanks to the shredded apple and sticky figgy bits from the jam. I didn’t add in too much sugar bearing in mind that the jam will already add sweetness.
If I do try this again, I might add little bit of cinnamon or maybe a handful of raisins to add another dimension to a subtle fruity cake.
FIG JAM AND APPLE LOAF
125g butter, softened
1/2 cup (100g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (225g) self raising flour
1/2 cup (160g) fig jam
1 cup shredded apple (I used one medium apple)
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
25 g chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a loaf tin.
Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until just combined.
Stir in flour, jam, apple, walnuts and milk in two batches. Spoon cake mixture into prepared loaf tin.
Bake in oven for about 45 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm and if you’re indulgent like me, serve warm with a little spread of salted butter. Guilty but yum!
I made a major boo boo in my last post by not stating that the oven temperature (and all future ones too!) is in Celcius and not Fahrenheit. My apologies to the fahrenheit folks out there who attempted to make the Oreo cupcakes and waited FOREVER for your cakes to cook in 180 F. Yikes. Major. Mistake. I promise never to do that again!! Ever!!
I have only ever used the metric system so I’m a major doofus when it comes to miles, fahrenheit, yards, foot, ounce etc etc. Conversions means math. And math and I aren’t good friends. I am forever grateful to Diana’s Desserts which has this handy conversion site specifically for baking, for without it, I would be in a complete conversion mess. There are countless conversion sites out there, but Diana’s site is bookmarked on my computer and it’s totally my handy helper in times of baking.
So anyway, as mentioned in my last post, I have a fail-proof Oreo cheesecake recipe which has been in my collection for many years and so here it is. I normally bake this in a slightly smaller springform pan (8″) which means there’s a thicker layer of cheesecake to indulge in. However since moving back to Australia, I only have one springform pan which is 9″ and so I ended up with a wider, thinner cheesecake. Not too big a problem as I only needed a couple more crushed oreos to add to the base. Everything else remained the same.
If you’re still a little Oreo crazy after all my talk of Oreos, you’d want to give this a try. It’s easy, delicious and looks darn impressive. I love that it is such a forgiving cake, it makes amateurs like me look good.
COOKIES AND CREAM CHEESCAKE
Make one 8″ cake
1 cup crushed oreos (approx 12 cookies)
1 tbsp melted butter
1 x 250g pack cream cheese, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
20 Oreos broken into small pieces
Mix crushed oreos with melted butter and press onto bottom of springform pan. Chill in the fridge while you prepare the other ingredients.
Preheat oven to 150C. Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs one at a time at low speed.
Remove chilled base from the fridge. Pour cheese mixture over the crust. Sprinkle broken oreo pieces over the top.
Bake in the oven for an hour or until the centre is almost set. If it’s a teeny bit jiggly, it’s okay as it will set further after it comes out of the oven. Cool before removing from the pan. Refridgerate for an hour or more before serving.
I’m a little obsessed with anything Oreos. I remember in the 90′s when cookies and cream was hip and happening. My greatest indulgence was cookies and cream thick shake. Large one please!
It seems the fad has died down in the last decade (oh my, I can quote decades means I’m old, yikes) but the infamous little chocolate sandwich of cookie and cream is far from passé. It’s very much alive and dear to our hearts and our flabby tummies can attest to that. In my collection is a never-fail, totally delish oreo cheesecake recipe that I’ve had for years. I’ll post that soon, as I made one recently and just haven’t come round to writing about it. But this is a newbie for me and it’s definitely staying in my collection – Oreo cupcakes. I made these for a friend’s birthday earlier this month and to date it’s my favourite cupcake recipe.
The cake part of the recipe is from a fellow food blogger – and for the life of me I can’t seem to remember who!! If you do know, please let me know and I’ll point it out to others. (Sheesh this is becoming habit – note to self – I have to make a point to remember which blog recipes are from!) But this is one of the best cookies and cream cupcakes I’ve had. Chunks of cookies and a super moist chocolate cake – heaven! Literally, break up a regular size Oreo into cup cake liners as seen below, and pour in a surprisingly runny chocolate cake batter.
See how runny the batter is? Yeah, don’t freak out. It makes the best chocolate cake base.
The frosting is made from whipped cream which is one of my favourite because it reminds me of the cookies and cream thick shake I used to indulge in. It is one of the simplest frostings to make but oh-so-lickably-yummy. I stood there for the longest time licking the bowl clean after I was done frosting the cupcakes. There was quite a bit leftover, and I ate it all! So, so good and so, so bad for me.
I managed to find the mini Oreos to top the cupcakes, but if you don’t have that, just use a regular sized Oreo and break it in half. Or even whole, if you prefer an equal cookie to cake ratio. My cupcake’s quite small, so the mini ones worked well.
Makes about 18 cupcakes
- 1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 Cup natural unsweetened cocoa
- 1 1/4 Cup sugar
- 3/4 Teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- 2 Eggs
- 1/2 Cup vegetable oil
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 Cup milk
- 3/4 Cup hot water
- 18 Oreos plus 6 more for crumbs
- small snack size box of mini oreos
Preheat the oven to 180C degrees. Line tray with baking cups.
Break Oreos into smaller pieces and disperse evenly in the bottom of each cupcake liner.
Mix the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl using a whisk. Then add the eggs, oil, vanilla, milk, and mix well until throughly incorporated. At this point, the batter looks normal and thick.
Then add the hot water and mix until is it combined. Now the mixture should be a much thinner liquid. (See photo above) Transfer batter into a large measuring cup and fill each cupcake cup about 3/4 full. Bake for 16-18 minutes. Repeat the baking process for any remaining batter.
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp. whipping cream
- 3 tbsp. powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 6 tbsp. Oreo cookie crumbs
In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until the whipped cream holds stiff peaks. Gently fold in the cookie crumbs with a spatula.
Need to go to the gym more to make up for baking a little too much these few weeks. I believe it’s a phase I’m going through, a phase the hubby very much appreciates I’m sure.
To make space in my freezer for freshly bought produce I got from the market, I thought I’d use up some of my frozen blueberries. I found this recipe a while back but don’t remember where from. All I remember was that it was supposed to be a coffee cake – you know, the kind with no coffee and lots of sugary streusel on top? I decided not to go with the streusel topping and just baked the cake on its own.
Turns out, you don’t need the extra sugary topping at all. I love streusel coffee cake, trust me. Made a huge one before and ate it all! However I feel that this cake was good on its own. Don’t overbake the cake and you’ll get this delightful creamy cake that is not overly sweet. It looks deceivingly dense, but it was light and crumbly. Good with a big mug of tea!
Right, here’s the recipe. I’m off to the gym! Gah!!!
BLUEBERRY SOUR CREAM CAKE
225g cup butter, softened
225g castor sugar
60g brown sugar
200ml sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
190g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups blueberries (optional – dust berries with 1 tbsp flour)
Preheat oven to 190 C. Butter and flour a springform tin. With a mixer, cream the softened butter and two sugars. Then add the eggs, one at a time, until well mixed. In a separate small bowl, fold the vanilla into the sour cream. Then fold the sour cream mixture into the bowl with the cake batter.
In a separate larger bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Pour this mixture into cake batter bowl with mixer on low to medium. Then fold in blueberries.Bake for 50 minutes to an hour or until the middle of the cake springs back when touched.
Peaky batch. After making macarons a number of times, it’s still pretty hit or miss with these little diva shells. I got the beautiful peaky shiny meringue. I got the ‘magma’ flowing mix with the almond meal. I piped, tapped the trays and waited. Yet there were still stubborn peaks on the macaron shells. I’m thinking my magma wasn’t quite flowing right.
One thing about macarons. Whether they are smooth and pretty or not so pretty slightly deformed mounds – they all taste the same. Good same. Yummy same.
On a recent trip home from a snow weekend, we stopped by a berry farm. I know fresh berries aren’t in season during winter, but the farm was open, and there were berry products which we could taste! Free tastings are always good right? There were berry jams, berry wines, syrup, sauce – all things berrilicious. I left with a wonderful jar of chunky and sticky fig jam and a smooth and shiny apple and elderberry jelly.
This is the first time I’ve filled macs with ganache and am really glad to say they’re a perfect fit. I used the apple and elderberry jelly to flavour the white chocolate ganache and the subtle fruity flavours came through just enough. Could have done with a bit more of a fruity hit but I didn’t want to add on more jelly as the sugar high from one of these mamas would have been ridiculous!
Summer’s on the way (read BERRIES galore!!), so next time I’ll add fresh berries to the ganache instead.
In the meantime, here’s the recipe. I’m off to enjoy another round of Glee marathon before I break into Season 3. Yes, I’m a Gleek!
200g almond meal
200g confectioners’ sugar
150g egg whites, divided into two 75g portions
Line baking trays with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Process almond meal with confectioners’ sugar in a food processor. Sieve out any large bits of almond.
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on medium until all the sugar is dissolved.
Meanwhile, place 75g of egg whites in a mixer bowl with the whisk attachment.
Continue cooking until the sugar syrup reaches 118 C. While the sugar is cooking, begin whisking the egg whites. They should reach stiff peaks by the time the syrup is at 118 C. If it whips too fast, turn down or turn off the mixer.
Turn the mixer speed to low. Carefully pour the sugar syrup in a slow stream into the mixer.
Turn the mixer speed to high and let the meringue whip for several minutes until it has cooled and appears glossy and firm.
In a large bowl, combine the almond meal mixture with the remaining 75g of egg whites until partially combined.
Scoop the meringue on top of the almond meal mixture. Using a spatula or dough scraper, carefully fold the meringue in, trying not to deflate it.
The final batter should be thick and flow slowly like magma. Do not overmix.
Pipe 1 ½” rounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Let the sheets sit for about 20 minutes to let the shells harden.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160 C.
Bake one set of macarons for 12-14 minutes, rotating once.
Let tray cool for a few minutes before removing from the silicone mat. Let finish cooling on wire racks.
APPLE & ELDERBERRY WHITE CHOC GANACHE
50ml pouring cream
100g white chocolate
5 tbps apple and elderberry jelly
Bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, add chocolate, stand until melted (5 minutes), stir until smooth and glossy. Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable (45 minutes-1 hour) then stir until smooth. Add jelly, stir till fully combined.
It’s my last week at my current job (woo hoo!) and a huge part of me is looking forward to lounging around, cooking, baking, more lounging, watching TV, more lounging around, eating and sleeping next week. I don’t expect to be hired again straight off the bat, so a little me time is in store. Yay! I have a number of things planned for me time. Baking – yes. TV watching – yes. Curb my impulsive Scoopon, Groupon purchases – yes, yes, yes! Between hubby and I, we have purchased five things via scoopon and groupon in the last month. It’s getting out of hand! Help me!
One of the scoopon deals is a 3-hour cupcake workshop – I’ll be sure to keep you updated on that. I’ve made cupcakes many times before but a proper class might be loads of fun! Can’t. Wait.
Today’s post is still on sweet bakes, but not the cake or frosting kind. Hong Kong style egg tarts. I’m not a big fan of egg custard tarts. I do enjoy one at the occasional yum cha lunches (dim sum for some of you) and once in a blue moon, I may just buy one from a chinese bakery. However I promised the hubs that I will bake him some egg tarts (about 3 weeks ago) and I finally fulfilled that promise. Egg tarts come in two different forms. One has a shortcrust butter pastry base and the other a more flaky puff pastry base. I don’t mind either – I’ve had really good versions of both before and I’ve had really bad versions as well.
I came across this post where a fellow blogger, Christine from Hong Kong had special requests to translate her Chinese recipes into English. That to me is a sign that the recipe must be a good one. And I’m glad she translated her recipe so I could give it a try. And I did. And it was good. Real good.
This is a shortcrust pastry style tart. A good egg tart to me has a buttery, slightly crumbly but firm tart base with a soft, just-set custard that is not too sweet or dense. If you over bake these tarts, it might be rock hard and yucky. If you under bake it, the insides including the custard may be too runny or not set properly. Christine had wonderful tips on how to bake the tarts to perfection. (I’ve included her tips below – if you do make them, follow the instructions!)
The tarts turned out beautifully. Buttery shortcrust pastry with just the right amount of crumble. The custard was perfect – not too sweet, just firm enough to hold its shape but still jelly-like, soft and creamy. I loved the taste so much, I broke my single egg tart consumption history and had two of them at one sitting! These tarts are best eaten freshly cooled from the oven. The twenty minute wait (for the tarts to cool) I made the hubby endure was quite torturous but he promptly inhaled the tarts soon after. Not a crumb left.
Thanks Christine for the recipe! And for adding to the inches on both of our waistlines.
HK STYLE EGG TARTS
Recipe from Christine’s Recipes
For the crust:
- 225 gm plain flour
- 125 gm butter
- 55 gm icing sugar
- 1 egg, whisked
- a dash of vanilla extract
Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer over medium speed until the mixture is smooth, fluffy and light in color. Add in whisked egg, half at a time, beat over low speed. Add vanilla extract, mix well.
Sift in flour in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions with a spatula, and make sure all ingredients combine well. Knead into a soft dough.
Roll out the dough to a 1/2 cm thickness. Cut dough with a cookie cutter that is just a bit smaller than your tart tin in size. Line dough in the middle of tart tins. Lightly press the dough with your thumbs, starting from the bottom then up to the sides. While pressing the dough, turn the tart tin clockwise/anti-clockwise in order to make an even tart shell. Trim away any excess dough.
For the custard:
- 3 eggs
- 110 gm caster sugar
- 225 gm hot water
- 85 gm evaporated milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Add sugar into hot water, mix until completely dissolved. Whisk egg with evaporated milk. Pour in sugar water. Mix well. Sift egg mixture to get rid of any foam. Carefully pour egg mixture into each tart shell.
Baking the tarts:
Preheat oven to 200C. Position rack in lower third of oven. Bake tarts for 10 to 15 minutes until the edges are lightly brown.
Lower the heat to 180C. Keep an eye on them. Once you see the custard being puffed up a bit, pull the oven door open about 2 to 3 inches. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the custard is cooked through. Just insert a toothpick into the custard. If it stands on its own, it’s done.
Extra baking tips:
- Placing tarts on the lower rack in the oven cooks the crusts easily and prevents the custard from heating up too quickly.
- At the very last stage, pull the oven door open a few inches. This is to avoid the custard from being puffed up too high. The custard will collapse once they are cooled down and you want to prevent this from happening.
- To check if the custard is set, stick a toothpick in the custard when it’s almost ready and if the toothpick stands on its own, the custard is set. The custard may still look a bit on the soft side, but if the toothpick stands, it’s good! Trust the toothpick!
Hubby went away recently to the US for business and usually he comes home craving for home cooked chinese stir fries, comfort food like curries and rice…but this time round, his biggest craving was for red velvet cupcakes. Very strange considering he was in the States where there would have been an abundance of them, no?
Anyway, I’m not going to harp on about how I went about making these cupcakes. Recipes are EVERYWHERE but all I can say is, the amount of food colouring that goes in these cakes scare me a little. Originally, the red colour from the cake batter was due to a chemical reaction from the chocolate that was used and the acid from buttermilk. That would have been interesting to watch! I know some people opt out of those tiny bottles or tubes of artificial food colouring and use natural products like beetroot. I’m not THAT health conscious – you gotta be kidding! Easy options are usually the best for me. I admit I’m quite a slacker cook. Chemically coloured cake? Why not!?
The classic combination of red velvet cupcakes and cream cheese frosting was a crowd (well, just hubby actually) pleaser and they were very well received.
I do apologise for the shifty photographs. The lighting was all wrong and I just couldn’t be bothered changing it. I’m so glad the days are getting longer…which means I have more natural light! Can’t. Wait.
This recipe was easy to follow and the cake turned out to be quite delish. However I’m waiting to get my hands on the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and then I’ll try their famous cake recipes. Book Depository here I come!
RED VELVET CUPCAKE with cream cheese frosting
from Joy of Baking
1 1/4 cups (125 grams) sifted cake flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons (10 grams) regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups (150 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk
1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners’ (icing or powdered) sugar, sifted
2/3 cup (160 ml) cold heavy whipping cream (double cream) (35-40% butterfat)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and line 12 muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.
In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
In a measuring cup whisk the buttermilk with the red food coloring. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
In a small cup combine the vinegar and baking soda. Allow the mixture to fizz and then quickly fold into the cake batter.
Working quickly, divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups and smooth the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 18 - 23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.
Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes and them remove from pan. Let cool completely before frosting. Either spread the frosting with a knife or offset spatula, or use a large 1MWiltonopen star decorating tip to pipe the frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting: In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar and beat until smooth. Using the whisk attachment, gradually add the heavy cream and whip until the frosting is thick enough to pipe. Add more sugar or cream as needed to get the right consistency.
Makes 12 cupcakes.
I’m intrigued by the Japanese. They have the most advanced technologies, they are forward thinking in so many ways, they have the most amazing sense of packaging (and design), their sense of honour, family and culture is extremely strong, and in light of the recent tsunami disasters – they are the most resilient and united people in the world!
I would love to visit Japan one day soon. Now that we’re back on this side of the globe, that dream is so much more possible. It is still an expensive place to visit, but it’s on the list. We’re working on it. For now, the closest Japanese experience for me is food. Sushi, sashimi, ramen, udon, teriyaki, tempura, teppanyaki, okonomiyaki, matcha ice-cream and I could go on and on….
I haven’t tried many Japanese recipes to date, something I should rectify. I’ll get onto that – starting with this recipe. It’s nothing new to many people who love baking. Japanese cheesecake, unlike its Western counterpart is crustless, soft and fluffy, light on the sugar factor and very dangerous.
It’s dangerous because it’s so easy to forget that you’re eating a cheesecake. This cotton soft wonder is so light that you could eat the entire cake and not feel a thing. Takes a lot of self control!
It’s fun to bake – however this time round my cake puffed up a lot during baking and when it cooled, it shrank back and caused the top to go all wrinkly. It’s still soft and doesn’t affect the taste at all, but it’s just not as pretty. I like pretty. Let’s hope I get yummy AND pretty next time.
140g fine granulated sugar
6 egg whites
6 egg yolks
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
250g cream cheese
100 ml fresh milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
60g cake flour
20g cornflour (cornstarch)
1/4 tsp salt
1. Melt cream cheese, butter and milk over a double boiler. Cool the mixture. Fold in the flour, the cornflour, egg yolks, lemon juice and mix well.
2. Whisk egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add in the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.
3. Add the cheese mixture to the egg white mixture and mix well. Pour into a 8-inch round cake pan (Lightly grease and line the bottom and sides of the pan with greaseproof baking paper or parchment paper).
4. Bake cheesecake in a water bath for 1 hours 10 minutes or until set and golden brown at 160 degrees C.
So, I’ve joined the workforce again. This was my first week at work and boy am I not used to working so hard for so many hours in a day! The couple of months off has ruined me! But it certainly is nice to be bringing home some bacon. I love pay days!
Brownies. Let me just say this - I’m not a big fan. As many of you would know, I’m not a chocolate lover, so when it comes to cake or baked goods, I usually lean towards the citrusy ones. However, I was bored at home (while job hunting) and thought I’d bake a batch of chewy chocolately pecan brownies. Jamie Oliver’s recipes have never failed me so I went ahead to recreate his bloomin’ brilliant brownies. Be warned. If you’re after a crumblier cakey version, then skip this.
These brownies were uber chocolatey (think 70% cocoa) and they were chewy and gooey. I loved them fresh from the oven, and I would recommend warming it for 10 sec in the microwave if it’s been a day or two old, and serve it with creamy vanillia ice cream. It’s rich and totally sinful. Moment on the lips, lifetime on the hips. But for something so divine…I’d take the hips, thanks!
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Bloomin’ Brilliant Brownies
250g unsalted butter
200g dark Fairtrade chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken up
50g chopped pecans
80g cocoa powder, sifted
65g plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
360g caster sugar
4 large free-range or organic eggs
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line a 25cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl over some simmering water, melt the butter and the chocolate and mix until smooth. Add the nuts, if you’re using them, and stir together. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar, then add this to the chocolate and nut mixture. Stir together well. Beat the eggs and mix in until you have a silky consistency.
Pour your brownie mix into the baking tray, and place in the oven for around 25 minutes. You don’t want to overcook them so, unlike cakes, you don’t want a skewer to come out all clean. The brownies should be slightly springy on the outside but still gooey in the middle.
All the boxes have left the building. What a relief. This whole moving to a whole different continent thing is not proving to be fun…but sitting here in a half empty apartment, I’m actually getting psyched and excited about going home to Australia. Can’t wait to see all our friends again.
I’m relishing an unusually warm Spring here in London, soaking in all the sun before we head back to Winter again. Now that, I’m not looking forward to.
Right, Cashew Blondies. I mentioned in my previous post that I showered my colleagues on my last day at work with more baked goods. This is my first time I’ve baked with cashews. I liked it. The cashews gave the cake a nutty, slightly creamy flavour and stood out strong against the bittersweet chocolate bits.
So I leave this with you until I find the opportunity to blog again…wherever I may be. Sweet dreams!
adapted from Chocolate Temptations (Linda Collister)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups self-raising flour
a large pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped cashews (I used non-roasted)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line baking tray with foil.
In a heavy pan, melt the butter. Add the sugar, stir well, and remove from the heat. Let cool for a minute, then add the eggs and vanilla, stirring well.
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder over the butter, sugar and egg mixture. Stir only until thoroughly blended, but don’t beat or overmix. Fold in nuts and chocolate.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25 minutes until just firm.
Cool for a while in the baking tray, then lift the cake, transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Remove the foil and cut into squares.
Small, blue and bursting with goodness. Once considered merely as a pie filling is now a superfood. It is full of anti-oxidants and vitamins and heath nuts are preaching the goodness of the blueberry.
It’s going to be blueberry season soon, although we are lucky enough to get blueberries most of the year here. Fresh or frozen. It’s delicious and I love baking with them. Cheesecakes, muffins, slices and in this instance, thrown into the mix to jazz up a regular, good old butter cake.
A simple and wonderful treat on a lazy Saturday afternoon…
BLUEBERRY BUTTER CAKE
200gm castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
200gm self raising flour, sifted with½ tsp salt
4 tbsp fresh milk
150g blueberries (fresh or frozen), tossed in 1 tbsp flour
- Grease and line a 20cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. Preheat oven to 170C
- Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add vanilla essence.
- Fold in sifted flour gradually to mix.
- Stir in milk. Mix until well combined, then fold through all the blueberries.
- Turn out mixture into prepared tin.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 55-60 minutes or until cooked through when tested with a skewer.
I’m sure you remember my Mexican trip last month. Of course you do because I couldn’t stop harping about it. (Sorry!) Well, one of the many gifts bestowed on us during this trip was a Mexican cookbook. I know right? How lovely.
I thought I’d try out one of the recipes – Sweet and Spicy Empanadas – with a few adjustments (addition of cayenne pepper – c’mon, you can’t call it spicy without a hit of hot and fiery, and some Worcestershire sauce because I felt it needed the extra flavour and tang). The beef mix turned out totally delicious. I could just eat it on its own…but wrapped in pastry? Divine!
Empanadas are commonly found in the South American street food scene. It’s usually eaten as an appetiser, but can be served as a main with various fillings from cheese to veggies to meat or seafood.
The filling is really easy to prepare and assembling the pastry was very therapeutic (well, for me at least – I had my ‘cave time’) The chopped nuts was an unexpected ingredient and I thought the added crunch was brilliant. I served the empanadas with a side of tangy chunky salsa which balanced out the dish really well.
This one’s a keeper!
Sweet & Spicy Beef Empanadas
50og ground beef
1 onion chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
400g canned chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup sherry
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsbp vinegar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 tbsp chopped toasted almonds
1 spring onion, chopped
salt & pepper to season
2 sheets of puff pastry
1. Preheat oven to 200C. In a hot skillet, brown onions and beef in a splash of olive oil. Once done, drain excess fat.
2. Add in sherry and garlic and cook till sherry has evaporated.
3. Add in sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and tomatoes. Cook till the tomato sauce is thickened and there is hardly any liquids.
4. Add almonds and spring onions, stir through and set aside to cool.
6. Roll out puff pastry, cut into 5 inch circles. Place 1 or 2 tablespoons of beef onto pastry. Fold in half and press sides to seal. Crimp the sealed sides with a fork.
7. Pierce top of the pastry with fork a few times, then brush with an egg wash (beat 1 egg with a splash of milk). Bake for 20 – 22 minutes till golden brown.
1 large beef tomato, cut in chunks
1 avocado, cut in chunks
1/4 red onion
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
5 basil leaves, sliced into fine strips
Mix all of the ingredients through, set aside in the refrigerator to chill.
The macaron fad is still very much alive. Maybe it’s here to stay, like fellow sweet stuff – the cupcake. Maybe.
For now, I just like the way it looks, tastes and not to mention the joy you get when your macaron has feet! For those who think I may be bonkers – to achieve the standard beauty of a macaron, it has to have a smooth shell and a ruffled bottom edge which is otherwise known as the feet. A macaron with no feet is like having creme brulee without the caramelised crisp sugar top layer – tastes okay, looks meh and totally unsatisfying to the person making it. A macaron with no feet is also otherwise known as a meringue cookie isn’t it? Which can be a major let-down if you’ve set your mind on making macarons. Trust me, I’ve been there.
I have found that the french method (macarons au blanc monte) of making macarons (which is what I learnt at a course last year) is very unstable and you’re never guaranteed feet success. The italian method (macarons au sucre cuit) which requires the use of hot sugar syrup produces a more stable meringue base for the macaron and success (feet and all) is much more achievable.
There are so many do’s and don’ts when it comes to making macarons, here are a few which I have come across:
1. Humidity is not a friend. Apparently it causes the mixture to be too damp.
2. No overmixing. When there’s over enthusiasm in mixing the batter, it will cause the macaron to collapse in the oven. Not pretty.
3. Beauty nap. The piped batter needs to be rested before baking. This allows the shells to form a layer and that’s what produces the smooth tops.
4. A clean bowl is a good start. If there’s oil in the mixing bowl, your meringue may not be happy and will not co-operate. It’s a clean freak. What a diva.
5. Age is a good thing. Egg whites that have been aged (left out for a few hours or a day or two – eew) produces meringue that holds their shape better as there’s less moisture in them.
I have also found that rotating the oven trays halfway through baking helps produce more evenly baked macarons. Maybe it’s because I have an oven as temperamental as the macarons. But it’s worked for me so I’m sticking to it.
Generally, the flavour from the macaron is from the filling. I used marmalade and marscapone (just because I had them) for my filling. The bits of orange rind from the marmalade was a nice citrus-y surprise when you’re lucky enough to get them in your little macaron.
Just a few simple ingredients and a whole load of fingers-crossed peering through the oven door and you get these pretty babies. What fun.
MARMALADE CREAM MACARONS
200g almond meal
200g confectioners’ sugar
150g egg whites, divided into two 75g portions
1. Stack two baking trays on top of each other. Line with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
2. Process almond meal with confectioners’ sugar in a food processor. Sieve out any large bits of almond.
3. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on medium until all the sugar is dissolved.
4. Continue cooking until the sugar syrup reaches 118 C/245 F. While the sugar is cooking, begin whisking the egg whites. They should reach stiff peaks by the time the syrup is at 245 F. If it whips too fast, turn down or turn off the mixer.
5. Turn the mixer speed to low. Carefully pour the sugar syrup in a slow stream into the mixer.
6. Turn the mixer speed to high and whip the meringue for several minutes until it has cooled and appears glossy and firm.
7. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal mixture with the remaining 75g of egg whites until partially combined. It’d look a little gloopy here, but it’s okay.
8. Scoop the meringue on top of the almond meal mixture. Using a spatula , carefully fold the meringue in, trying not to deflate it. The final batter should be thick and flow slowly like magma. Do not overmix.
9. Scoop the batter into a piping bag fitted with a ½” diameter plain tip.
10. Pipe 1 ½” rounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Let the sheets sit for about 20 minutes before baking.
11. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160 C/320 F.
12. Bake one set of macarons for 15 minutes, rotating once. The cooked macaron should lift off the parchment easily.
13. Let tray cool for a few minutes before removing from the silicone mat or parchment. Let finish cooling on wire racks.
Marmalade Cream Filling
4 tbsp fine cut marmalade
2 tbsp icing sugar
drop of food colouring (optional)
Simply mix all the above ingredients together well. Taste and adjust sugar amounts if necessary.
Let it chill in the fridge while the macaron shells are cooling to help firm it up a little.
There’s one piece of bakeware that I own which only serves one purpose. My madeleine tin. Makes beautiful shell shaped madeleines and that’s it. But I love it.
I first fell in love with fresh out of the oven madeleines when I was at St John’s restaurant a while back and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve tried making it at home, it may not look as perfect as that hump-in-the-middle madeleine at the restaurant but it sure tasted good and I was quite satisfied…
That is until I recently came across the actual St. John recipe for their yummy madeleines. Yes! Now we’re talking. This recipe is sweeter and fluffier and very very simple. No almond meal and lemon zest, no fussing about – just straight up and decent. Sorry Heston Blumenthal, your recipe is just a tad too fussy. I’ll have to come back to you another time. Or not – since this recipe is quite the winner.
Alright, perhaps I should give others a chance…maybe try out a few more recipes. Heston’s and New York’s very own Daniel Boulud’s recipe. This shall be my madeleines quest. Oh, and the challenge is for me to obtain that ‘hump’. This was all I got this time round. Baby hump. But I’m pleased to report that humpless madeleines are just as tasty.
ST JOHN MADELEINES
Melt 70g of unsalted butter with a generous tablespoon of runny honey then simmer until the sugars caramelise.
Whisk together a large egg with 55g of caster sugar and a tablespoon of soft brown sugar until a trail can be left on the surface of the mixture. Sift in 70g of self raising flour then fold in along with the butter/honey mixture. Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Grease the Madeleine moulds with butter and flour, tip out any excess then pop a spoonful of the mixture into each one.
Bake at 200 degrees C for about 10 minutes. Best eaten fresh…with endless cups of tea.