Friday, May 30, 2008
The theme for cupcake hero for May is cocoa. I found this quite a tricky challenge as I wanted to make something in which cocoa was the necessary ingredient, not just chocolate. For a long time now I have wanted to make a filled cupcake and when I was thinking of cocoa, I thought of chocolate self saucing pudding – one of my childhood puddings that Mum used to make on a regular basis, where the star is cocoa. Cocoa is a necessary ingredient of the self saucing part – you cant substitute chocolate. So, my cupcakes for this month are chocolate self saucing pudding cupcakes.
I decided to make a plain vanilla cake as the basis for the cupcake, then scooped out the centre and filled with cold chocolate self saucing pudding. I wanted there to be a contrast between the pudding and the cake and I didn’t think I would get that by having a chocolate cake as well. The topping is simply, whipped cream and then a sprinkle of dutched cocoa powder.
I only made a half recipe of chocolate self saucing and I made it in the microwave. Five minutes on high and you get a pretty simple pudding made. I do prefer the crustiness you get when you cook it in the oven but for using it as a cupcake filling, the microwave was fine.
I used dutched cocoa to make the pudding. Dutching cocoa is a process which I think makes the cocoa more alkaline (don’t quote me on this!). The cocoa has a much stronger and chocolatey flavour. I use it where I want to add depth to whatever I am making. I use equagold (an NZ company) dutched cocoa.
I used the crabapple bakery vanilla cupcake recipe, adding vanilla paste to get those little flecks of vanilla bean that I love. These cupcakes are great. They are definitely like eating pudding for morning tea. If you don’t want to make the cupcakes, just make the pudding. If I am making it by itself, I add chocolate chunks and cook it in the oven for a nicer texture. These cupcakes are really yummy - especially with the whipped cream on top!
Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding Cupcakes
First of all make the pudding and leave it in the fridge over night
½ c flour
1 tbsp dutched cocoa
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ c milk
1 tbsp melted butter
dash of vanilla essence
· Stir dry ingredients together, then stir in milk, butter and vanilla
· Pour into a microwave proof dish
· Mix together1/2 c brown sugar and 1 tbsp dutched coca and sprinkle over batter
· Pour over 1 ¼ c boiling water
· Microwave on full power for 5 minutes
Make vanilla cupcakes – I used this recipe, using vanilla instead of rose water. Once cold, scoop out the centre and fill with pudding. Top with whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
In the weekend we went to Christchurch to visit my family. On Saturday night when my husband and Dad went to the rugby, Mum and I looked after my nephew and niece, Griffyn and Piper who are 6 and 4 and too adorable for words. We decided to make cupcakes and decorate them. Cupcakes are a great thing for kids to make. Griffyn and Piper loved measuring the ingredients and putting them in the bowl and mixing, and really loved the decorating at the end. Licking the bowl was another highlight!
I used the basic one egg chocolate cake recipe from the Edmonds cook book. It is a good one for every day cupcakes as it has little butter and only one egg so is very economical. We iced them with cream cheese icing which we tinted blue. The kids each had a wee bowl of pebbles and other small lollies and some hundreds and thousands and decorated their own cakes. They loved it!
The photos I took of the kids were pretty hopeless so here is a really lovely one of them that my sister took.
Last night for dinner we had fish which I roasted in the oven after brushing it with a paste I made with crushed garlic, olive oil and paprika. I served it with a really simple orzo salad which was orzo mixed through with baby spinach leaves, feta, some olive oil and lemon juice. Really simple but really yummy.
Just one more thing – I have written another article for the Foodlovers website on making old fashioned puddings more styley – you can see it here.
One Egg Chocolate Cake (Edmonds Book)
1 tbsp golden syrup
½ c sugar
1 tbsp cocoa
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
few drops of vanilla
1 tsp baking soda dissolved in ¾ c milk
· Melt together butter and golden syrup. Beat in egg and then sugar
· Add remaining ingredients
· Spoon into cupcake cases (or into a lined 20 cm cake tin)
Bake cupcakes for about 20 minutes at 170 c
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The Daring Baker challenge for May encompasses all the things I love about being a Daring Baker – it challenged me to make something I would probably not have tried, but for the challenge. This month it was L’Opera cake. Now, the cake you see in the photos probably doesn’t look all that complex, and to be honest, the individual components are not that hard, but put them all together and the Opera cake is quite a feat.
An opera cake consists of five components – a sponge cake made from ground nuts rather than flour, a sugar syrup which is used to moisten the sponge, a buttercream to sandwich the first two layers of cake together, a chocolate mousse and finally a glaze to top the cake. The main DB rule was that the cake had to be a light coloured cake. I based my cake around some little icing flowers I had made a few weeks ago that are a pretty pale pink colour, making my cake rose flavoured.
I didn’t have anything special to make the cake for, so decided to make only a third of the mixture. It made a nice loaf sized cake. The sponge was fairly easy – a nice light almond sponge which was then moistened with sugar syrup to which I added some rose water. The butter cream was made using egg and a sugar syrup. I think it was the best butter cream I have made – it was lovely and thick and creamy rather than buttery. I tinted the butter cream pale pink and also flavoured it with rosewater.
The mousse was made by folding melted white chocolate into beaten cream. This gave an almost ganache like mousse. I also tinted this pale cream. The glaze was actually a bit thicker than I thought it would be. It was ganache like as well. I went a bit crazy on the food colouring in the first attempt, so I re-made it. It still turned out a bit darker than I would have liked. I think I would also add a bit more cream to the glaze to make it a bit thinner.
The verdict? This cake was delicious. I took it into work and it was a hit – at least with the women. I heard through the grapevine that my business partner thought it tasted like hand cream! At least he got that it was rose flavoured! This is a real special occasion cake. I would make it again and would be interested to try different flavours – I think a chocolate one would be particularly nice. I really enjoyed making this cake and I enjoyed the challenge of trying to make it look as good as I could. Thanks again to the Daring Bakers for another fun challenge! You can see the other DBs’ Opera cakes here.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
This week’s TWD is honey and pecan sticky buns chosen by Madam Chow of Madam Chow’s Kitchen. We were in Christchurch over the weekend visiting my family, so I made them down there for lunch on Sunday. It is quite interesting cooking in someone else’s kitchen. Mum hasn’t got the huge array of baking dishes that I have, but I managed to improvise using a pottery dish that she usually makes quiche in. Also, Mum’s kenwood cake mixer was her mother’s so it must be almost 40 years old. Even on low speed it seemed to be going awfully fast!
The buns were another variation using brioche dough. Once again I ignored Dorie’s instructions to make a full batch of the brioche dough and I halved the recipe. The dough was made on Saturday night, left to prove in the fridge overnight, then filled with cinnamon and sugar (I used mixed spice because I couldn’t find cinnamon in Mum’s pantry), rolled into scrolls and then put in a baking dish into which you have already put a mixture or honey, butter, brown sugar and pecans.
The buns are delicious. The honey mixture turns into toffee as it cools – the optimum time for eating them is while they are still warm but not so hot that the honey mixture burns your mouth. They are a breakfast / lunch item but Mum actually ate one cold with runny cream on it. I guess that would be a bit like bread and butter pudding?
I really liked this recipe. I love pecans and I love sticky buns, so it was a great combination. I would definitely make these again! You can see the other TWDers’ buns here :0)
Monday, May 26, 2008
Last week I made these macaroons for another staff members birthday. It was only the second time that I have made these French style macaroons. The first time I made them I was really disappointed with them – I am not sure what I did wrong, but they didn’t set up like they should have and were disappointingly flat. So, I actually wasn’t going to try making macaroons again. But, I see so many beautiful looking macaroons on Tartlette’s blog, so I decided to have another go.
I used a Donna Hay recipe for mocha macaroons. The actual macaroon part is a plain almond macaroon, but the filling is espresso powder and white chocolate. They are dusted with dutched cocoa. I didn’t want to make heaps of them, so I just made a third of the recipe. This worked quite successfully even though I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t get enough volume with just one egg white.
I was really pleased with these. The macaroons were crispy on the outside and chewy inside and I think they look like they should as well. I will definitely be trying other variations on the macaroon theme again.
Friday, May 23, 2008
In April we had four good friends have babies – all baby boys. Last Sunday we went to visit little Max. He was only three weeks old – I haven’t held such a little baby in a long time! He is so adorable! Anyway, back to the food! I made these little biscuits to take to Max’s parents. They are the standard shortbread recipe I use when I am decorating shortbread – a much firmer shortbread than the one I make when making shortbread for shortbread’s sake rather than for decorating!
I had seen these little all in one biscuits in a book, but I didn’t have a cutter, so I traced around the photo in the book and then cut the biscuits out by hand. Not being known for my cutting skills and also being known for being just a bit quick, I was quite pleased with how I did. I was also really pleased with the decorating. I actually think that these are the best biscuits I have decorated and I feel quite inspired to do a lot more biscuit decorating.
I know that I have got lots of photos of exactly the same thing, but I am really proud of these!
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I have had a few wee gifts to make lately – some biscuits for a client who fixed our boardroom table and some for our WP manager’s birthday. For the client I chose pecan cinnamon cookies from a Donna Hay magazine. These are nice everyday kind of cookies. A bit like a chocolate chip cookie but with pecans instead.
They are the kind of cookies that start off in little balls and then spread to quite large cookies. They remained nice and crispy on the outside, but kind of chewy inside. I don’t think I put enough pecans in them and I also think that there could have been double the amount of cinnamon (I like quite strong flavours).
For Jacqui, I chose horse shoe shaped oat biscuits because she is right into horses. I must say though, if I hadn’t told her that they were horse shoe shaped she could have been forgiven to have thought that they were just weird shaped biscuits! My horse show making technique was not great!
The recipe for these biscuits came from the Australian Womens Weekly Book “Cookies”. They are quite a crispy biscuit with the added benefit of feeling kind of virtuous as they are made from oats. They are actually made from normal rolled oats and also rolled barley. I actually had rolled barley in the cupboard as I mix rolled barley, rolled rye and rolled spelt into my rolled oats that I eat for breakfast each morning. If you didn’t have it, you could just use more rolled oats.
Mixed Oats Horse Shoe Biscuits (from AWW Cookies)
½ c castor sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp honey
½ c rolled oats
½ c rolled barley
2 c flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cloves
½ c rolled oats, extra
· Beat butter, sugar and egg until combined
· Stir in remaining ingredients
· Sprinkle bench with extra rolled oats, and roll tbsp of dough into lengths on oats and then twist into horseshoe shapes
Bake at 180c for 20 min. cool on wire racks
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
In the weekend we went to friend’s for dinner. I always like to take a little something with me as thank you. I have mentioned before that, seeing as I subscribe to 4 different cooking magazines, I make it a personal challenge to cook something from each of them once a week. By the time it got to the weekend I still hadn’t made a recipe from Cuisine, so it had to be something from there for my wee gift to take with us. I thought these little chocolate tarts looked like just the thing to take!
The tarts are very rich. The pastry is made with dutched cocoa which give a very strong chocolate flavour. The pastry was delicious eaten raw (I am one of those naughty people who prefers raw dough to cooked!!!). It was really forgiving and was easy to press into the tart tins. The other nice thing is that you chilled the tart pastry and then baked it, not having to worry about baking it blind. I used shallow tart tins my mother had bought for me a while back - they are quite hard to find these days, but you could use mini muffin tins.
The filling was a ganache using 72% chocolate, cream and a couple of teaspoons of espresso. The recipe also said to spread a thin layer of chocolate over the ganache – due to time constraints I skipped this step and merely dusted them with more dutched cocoa.
I really liked these tarts. They are just enough for two small mouthfuls, which due to the richness of the chocolate is probably all you need.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
This week’s TWD recipe is madelines. Madelines are small shell caked sponge like cakes. They are of French origin. I have made madelines a few times before – mainly because I bought the Madeline tray and have felt obliged to use it.
The ones we made this week were traditional. They were flavoured with lemon zest (rubbed into the sugar which is a fantastic way to impart the real oiliness of the lemon zest into the cakes) and a dash of vanilla. In the past I have made chocolate ones and also rose scented. The recipe worked out great – my shells kept their shape and were nicely crusted on the outside. I think the trick of chilling the mixture before baking helped them keep their shape. The madelines are best eaten within a few hours of making and in my mind, are probably best when there is still some residual warmth from baking.
I find these to be quite plain little cakes – as they are intended to be. However, I think I prefer to eat them with something to jazz them up a bit – like whipped cream or jam. I actually froze them when I made them on Saturday. Last night our architect coming round, so I defrosted them and dipped the ends in some warmed ganache I had left over from some tarts I made in the weekend. They were really delicious and came through the freezing process extremely well!
See the other TWDers’ madelines here.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Last week we had friends over for dinner. Mid-week entertaining can be hard as you only have limited time to prepare. Some things you can prepare in advance, but it is good to have something that can cook in less than an hour. I had made a yoghurt and herb dip the night before which we had with pita crisps for nibbles. Our main was a boned lamb roast which I stuffed with a mixture of breadcrumbs, mint, pine nuts, dried apricots and cinnamon. We had it with cous cous and a really yummy salad which was rocket leaves, peas, mint leaves and feta with a honey, lemon juice and olive oil dressing tossed through.
Pudding was these little quince sponge puddings. They were so yummy. I made individual serves, as I think it is an easy way of making a simple dessert look as though you have gone to a bit more effort. The sponge in this pudding is more like steam pudding than the lighter fruit sponge Mum used to make from the Edmonds book. Instead of quince you could use any canned or bottled fruit – Black Doris Plums would be nice. I served the puddings with whipped cream and quince syrup but custard would also be nice.
2/3 c sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp vanilla paste
1 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp mixed spice
1 ½ c cooked fruit and ½ c syrup
· Cream butter and sugar; mix in egg and then rest of ingredients
· Spoon fruit and some of its syrup into 6 greased ramekins
Spoon sponge mixture over fruit and bake for 20 minutes at 180c
Friday, May 16, 2008
At work this morning we had a breakfast with the women staff and some of our women contacts, raising money for Breast Cancer Research. We thought it was a good way to network and also raise some money for a good cause. The breakfast was fairly simple – ham and cheese croissants and big fruit platters and I also made these little pink cupcakes.
The cupcakes themselves were dried strawberry, cherry and almond cupcakes. I had never tried the dried cherries before – they were delicious. They almost tasted like lollies – quite sweet but with a slightly sour tang. And of course I love nuts in cakes. I think it must be a texture thing. The icing was simple cream cheese icing, with vanilla bean paste. Quite tasty and they look gorgeous on my lovely cupcake stand!
The breakfast was a real success. I encourage others to do something similar.
Dried Berry and Almond Cupcakes (adapted from Australian Womens Weekly Cupcake book)
½ tsp vanilla
2/3 c castor sugar
1 c dried mixed berries (I used dried cherries and strawberries)
½ c slivered almonds
2/3 c flour
1/3 c self raising flour
¼ c milk
· Cream butter, sugar and vanilla; add eggs one at a time
· Stir in dry ingredients and milk
· Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for 20 minutes at 170c
Ice with cream cheese icing
Thursday, May 15, 2008
We have a monthly meeting at work and every now and again I bring in something to nibble on while we have it. I was given a bag of feijoas and thought I would make these little feijoa and coconut cakes for the meeting. The cakes are lovely and moist as they are drenched in lemon syrup after baking. If you didn’t like feijoas, you could top them with sliced plum or blueberries or even just leave them plain. The recipe is below.
I also wanted to tell you about the dinner we had out for my husband’s birthday on Tuesday. We went to The Narrow Table in Mairangi Bay. This is a new restaurant and is French bistro style. It has had some really great reviews in Cuisine and the Sunday Star Times. See the Cuisine review here. Incidentally the prices were much higher than mentioned in the Cuisine review. It has also had a very average review in Metro. On Tuesday night it was very average! In fact it was almost below average.
Firstly, the wait staff were very indifferent. We ordered a glass of wine to begin with (quite expensive for suburban dining, starting at $12 a glass). The menu was broken into entrees, mains and dessert. I didn’t want an entrée but would have quite liked some bread and nice oil or even butter to nibble on while we pondered the menu. There was nothing on offer – even when I asked. My husband had pacific oysters done in tempura batter. He said they were nice but not startling.
Then for our mains we were told that the fish of the day was hapuka. There was no fish of the day listed on the menu, so I assumed this was a special. However, when my husband ordered the tuna from the menu, he was told that it wasn’t tuna today, but hapuka. Why don’t they just list fish of the day on the menu rather than specifying a fish they don’t have? Then I heard the waitress tell the next table that the fish of the day was salmon – why weren’t we told that? It took 15 minutes to establish that we could have either. I chose salmon and my husband chose hapuka.
The mains were served with baby spinach leaves in a yummy vinaigrette and baby potatoes. I am not sure what variety the potatoes were, but they tasted very bland – I suspect that they were Nadine, a variety referred to as the “dumb Blonde” of the potato world. The meal was tasty enough, just not the 4 stars I had expected from the Cuisine review. We didn’t have pudding, opting to go home for birthday cupcakes instead. I don’t think we will be going back.
Feijoa and Coconut Cupcakes (makes 15)
¾ c sugar
1 1/3 c flour
¾ c coconut
1 ½ tsp baking powder
6 feijoas, peeled and sliced
· Cream butter and sugar; beat in eggs, one at a time
· Stir in flour, coconut and baking powder
· Spoon into cupcake cases and top with a few slices of feijoa
· Bake at 170c for 25 minutes
When cold, spoon over hot syrup made by stirring ¾ c each of sugar and water and juice of 3 lemons over low heat until sugar is dissolved, then simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
It was my husband’s birthday yesterday. I seem to be making a lot more cakes lately due to TWD etc, so instead of one great big cake I decided to make some cupcakes so at least we can freeze the ones we don’t eat. My husband loves sweet things but also enjoys the illusion of healthy sweet things!! That is he chooses cakes and slices with fruit in them on the basis that they are the healthy option as opposed to something chocolate! So on the pretence of making him healthy cupcakes, I made him apple and walnut spice cakes, adapting a Julie Le Clerc recipe for apple caramel cake.
Actually, the ingredients in these cakes are not too different from a muffin. It is a fairly dense mixture though and I almost added some milk, but quite liked the almost pudding texture the dense mix gave. I used walnuts but you could also use pecans or hazelnuts and if you like dried fruit you could add sultanas or raisins (I don’t so I didn’t!).
I iced the cupcakes with cream cheese icing to which I added a teaspoon of Heliala vanilla paste. I love the little vanilla flecks! I then drizzled the icing with a simple caramel sauce – not so healthy after all!
These cakes are very yummy. You could leave the icing off and serve them warm with custard or even with whipped cream and more of the caramel sauce.
Apple and Walnut Spice Cakes (adapted from Julie Le Clerc recipe)
100ml rice bran oil
½ c sugar
½ tsp vanilla
1 c flour
½ tsp each of cinnamon and mixed spice
¼ tsp baking soda
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
¼ c toasted walnuts, chopped
· Beat together oil, egg, sugar and vanilla.
· Stir in remainder of ingredients and then spoon into cupcake cases (I made 9 cakes)
· Bake at 170c for 18 minutes
When cold, ice with cream cheese frosting and drizzle with caramel sauce made by combining ¼ s brown sugar, 25g butter and ¼ c cream over a low heat until sugar dissolves, then simmer for 3-5 minutes
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
We went down to New Plymouth in the weekend to see my father-in-law in hospital, so I didn’t get a chance to make my TWD challenge for this week. It was florida pie – a coconutty take on key lime pie. I had even bought the limes and everything! I look forward to making it another time. You can see how the other TWDers did here.
I did do one small bit of baking on Friday night though. I made these ginger kisses to take down to my father-in-law. I haven’t made ginger kisses before. I adapted the recipe which was in Cuisine last year some time. I made more like a soft biscuit rather than a spongey cake kiss like the ones in the shops. They were slightly crisp round the edges but soft in the middle. After being joined together with the buttercream they softened up nicely. The buttercream was flavoured with the syrup from a jar of preserved ginger and diced preserved ginger. They were quite yummy and I hope my F-I-L liked them.
Last night for dinner we had fresh gurnard with a walnut sauce (recipe is in the latest Taste Magazine) with roasted mushroom and potatoes (a Dish magazine recipe) and a baby spinach leaf salad. The roasted mushrooms and potatoes were delicious – basically re-hydrated porcini stir fried with fresh field mushrooms and some thyme, then roasted in the oven with sliced waxy potatoes. A yummy winter dish.
Friday, May 9, 2008
The masterbaker challenge for April is vanilla. People are often asked whether they prefer vanilla or chocolate and I think it is an unfair choice! While I would almost always choose chocolate first, vanilla is definitely my favourite spice. I love the smell of vanilla and the taste of real vanilla adds so much to otherwise bland foods such as ice-cream, custard and whipped cream. Actually there are only two perfumes that I wear – eternity which I mostly wear, but sometimes for a break I use body shop vanilla. The fragrance I fill my house with is also called cocoa and vanilla which I adore! So, yes to chocolate but equally yes to vanilla!!
Anyway, back to the challenge. Last year I bought some vanilla jam from Q Gardens in Waitara. The jam is made with melon as a base and has flecks of vanilla bean through it. It has a lovely vanilla flavour – you cant really taste the melon, I guess it just gives the jam the pectin for setting. I decided to put it to use in my vanilla creation for March.
I love little jam drop cookies, but wanted to do something a bit different, so I used mini muffin tins to bake the cookies, making little vanilla jam tarts. These taste like a cross between a biscuit and a tart base. They look kind of cute for a change. I added poppyseeds to the dough to give a little bit of crunch and it is also flavoured with real vanilla extract (the heilala brand I always use). These little bites are deliciously filled with vanilla jam. I used the end of a wooden spoon to make the indents – I find it works better than my finger. If you didn’t have vanilla jam you could fill them with any other flavoured jam – plum would be nice or the peach and vanilla jam I made earlier in the year.
Vanilla Jam Tarts
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp Heilala vanilla
1 ¼ c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp poppyseeds
2 tbsp milk
jam to fill
· Cream butter and sugar, add vanilla
· Stir in dry ingredients and then milk to make the dough
· Press small balls of dough into greased mini muffin tins (I got 20 little tarts)
· Press an indent into each tart and fill with half a tsp of jam
· Bake at 170c for 18 minutes or until golden
Leave for at least 5 minutes before removing from the tins
Thursday, May 8, 2008
A couple of weeks ago we had two good friends have babies. Both from out of town and both with other small children. So, as well as the baby’s present I sent some little cookies for the other wee ones to enjoy. I wanted to make something small and fun and these chocolate freckle biscuits fitted the bill.
They are basically chocolate cut out cookies, spread with melted chocolate and scattered with hundreds and thousands and other coloured sprinkles. I think they looked pretty cool. They certainly tasted yummy!!
My little sister, Hayley, has just been to Melbourne for a holiday and being the gorgeous sister that she is, she bought me the most perfect present!!! Teal coloured cachous from the Crabapple Bakery and this gorgeous tea towel printed with cupcakes. And, not only is it covered with cupcakes – it is pink, my favourite colour!!! I don’t think I have mentioned my tea towel obsession before, but I love lovely and interesting linen – especially tea towels. Not sure whether I should mention this or not, but I have even started a collection of new tea towels for our new house. A little bit sad actually! But this cupcake tea towel is too beautiful to use, so I think I will make it into an apron! There was instructions in the latest House and Garden magazine with instructions on how to do this. I’ll let you know how I go.
Last night for dinner we had pork schnitzel (Havoc free range pork – it tastes like real meat) which I dipped in seasoned flour, then beaten egg, then panko crumbs and pan fried, served with roast kumara and a simple red cabbage salad – quarter of a red cabbage shredded and mixed with a sliced apple and a dressing of 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp wholegrain mustard, 1 tbsp evoo and 2 tbsp sherry vinegar. It was great for a change – the sharpness of the salad cut through the richness of the pork. A great late autumn meal.