Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Macaron Topped Cupcakes

I have a naughty naughty secret about these cupcakes. I cheated and used a packet mix for the cake. Oh and it gets worse, for vanilla cupcakes I enjoy, maybe even prefer a cake mix. There I said it.

I don't know if I was being punished for using a cake mix or if it was because of the time i tried to beat rock hard butter, but halfway through making these cupcakes my electric beater decided to call it quits. It made a horrible clunking noise and that was the end.

Oh well i figure I'm now one step closer to a KitchenAid mixer and with a borrowed beater i finished off the cupcakes.

Aside from that one little mishap everything else worked out super well, the macarons were my best yet and looked very pretty with the matching swirl icing.

For the Vanilla Macarons follow the recipe in my previous post.

For the Whipped White Chocolate Ganache (cupcake and macaron filling)

180 grams white chocolate (finely chopped)
180 mls thickened cream

To make the ganache- Place chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl.
In a small saucepan bring the cream to the boil.
Pour boiling cream over chocolate.
Gently whisk the chocolate and cream until smooth and silky.
Place the ganache in the fridge until it is cool.
With an electric beater, beat the chilled ganache on medium until soft peaks form.
Divide in two, half to fill the cupcakes and half for the macarons.

For the Vanilla Buttercream

100g butter (softened)
2 ½ cups icing sugar
20 mls thickened cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pink food colouring

To make the icing- In a bowl beat butter until pale. Gradually beat in the icing sugar and then the vanilla and cream. The buttercream should be light and fluffy. If too thin gradually add a little more icing sugar, if too thick add a little more cream.

Spoon half of the buttercream into a second bowl and tint with a few drops of food colouring until the desired colour is reached.

Fit a piping bag with a large star shaped tip. Spoon the pink icing into one side of the piping bag and fill the remaining half with the white icing.

For the cupcakes

1 vanilla or butter cake mix.

To make the cupcakes- Preheat oven to 180 degrees c. Line your cupcake pan with cupcake papers. (mine made 14 cakes)

Prepare cake mix as per instructions.

Divide the cake mix evenly between cupcake liners. (I like to use an icecream scoop for this)

Bake the cupcakes for about 15-20 minutes until lighty golden and bounce back when poked.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Carefully cut a cone shape out of the top of each cupcake, set aside the cutout piece.

Spoon or pipe the ganache filling into the cupcakes.

Cover the filling with the saved cake cutouts.

Pipe a swirl of icing onto each of the filled cupcakes.

Gently press a macaron on top of the buttercream.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Carrot Cake/ Fish Birthday Cake

After a lot of brainstorming I finally worked out what kind of cake to make my dad for his birthday, a fish! It really should have been quite obvious to me but for some reason I couldn’t put praline out of my mind (I’ll save that idea for something else). The type of fish roughly resembles a maori wrasse, dads most recent catch.

The inside of the fishy was carrot cake iced with orange cream cheese frosting, the outside and the cake board were covered with marshmallow fondant painted with a mix of food colouring gel and lemon food flavouring.

I have to put the completion of the cake down to a lot of luck, it was my first time using this recipe, my first fondant covered cake and the first time I had tried painting icing. I had intended to make this cake over a couple of days but after some mix ups ended up doing it all in one very long night. Very long!

Carrot cake (I turned to Martha, using her recipe for Three Layer Carrot Cake)

For the cake-
2 ½ cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
12 ounces butter (at room temp)
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup of water
1 pound grated carrots (approx 3 large carrots)
1 cup pecans (finely chopped)

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 180 degrees c. Grease 3 three 9-inch round cake pans (I used two 8 inch square pans) and line bottoms with baking paper. Dust with flour, tapping out excess.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg.

Beat together butter and sugars on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beat well after each addition.
Mix in the vanilla, water, and carrots. Beat for around 2 minutes until well combined.
Reduce speed to low, gradually add flour mixture and then finely chopped pecans.
Evenly divide the batter between pans. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in pans for 15 minutes before turning out cakes onto rack. Turn right side up, and let cool completely.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

120 grams packaged cream cheese (room temp)
60 grams butter (softened)
2 teaspoons orange zest
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups icing sugar

To make the frosting- Beat cream cheese, butter, orange zest and vanilla with a mixer on medium speed until creamy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually mix in the icing sugar until smooth and fluffy.

Spread cooled cake with frosting and cover with rolled marshmallow fondant.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Dad!!

More about the fish cake to come.

Caramel Swirl Brownies

I have died and gone to brownie heaven!! I am pretty sure these are the best brownies ever.

My go to brownie recipe has just been replaced. These turned out deliciously fudgy with the quintessential cracked brownie top. The really special part for me was biting into the brownies and finding the caramel swirls. Every single person I shared them with raved about how yummy they were.

Three things you should probably do
*eat any leftover caramel with a spoon!
*for prettier brownies wait for them to cool before cutting them up (I was impatient needless to say)
*have a glass of milk handy..

For the Brownies (based on recipe from How To Eat A Cupcake)

115 grams salted butter (cubed)
170 grams dark chocolate
¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
1 cup walnuts
1 cup top-n-fill caramel

To make the brownies- grease a 20 cm (8 inch) square pan and line with baking paper. Preheat your oven to 175 degrees c (350 f).

Place the broken up chocolate and butter pieces in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave the butter and chocolate until smooth, checking and stirring around every 30 seconds.

Remove from the microwave. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking until combine.

Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Gradually mix in the flour and stir in the nuts.

Spread half the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Dollop of 1/3 of the caramel evenly spaced over the mix. Swirl the caramel slightly with a knife.

Spread with the remaining brownie batter. Spoon the remaining caramel evenly over the top and swirl with a knife.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes (I baked mine for 45) until the centre feels slightly firm. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

I hope you love them as much as I do.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pretty Big Pretzels

Wednesdays are a good day! Not only is Wednesday my Friday, it is also farmers market day in Brisbane. This week farmers market day meant a bratwurst hotdog and a pretzel for lunch. YUMMMM!

Inspired by my tasty tasty lunch i had a go at making my own pretzels. These were much easier to make than i imagined they would be. Aside from the rising times they were fairly quick to make, easy to roll and shape.

They weren’t quite as tasty as my market bought pretzel but i was super pleased with how they turned out.

For the dough
(from The essential baking cookbook)

1 teaspoon dried yeast
¼ teaspoon sugar
150 ml warm milk
1 ½ cups bread flour
¼ teaspoon salt
30 grams butter (melted)
1 egg yolk (lightly beaten)
Course sea salt

In a bowl stir together dried yeast, sugar and milk. Cover bowl and place in a warm position for ten minutes, until frothy.

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.

Add the yeast mixture and the melted butter to the flour and mix to make a rough dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and set aside in a warm place for about 1 hour (until its twice the size).

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees c. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Punch down the dough and knead for another 2 minutes. Cut the kneaded dough into 12 even pieces.

Roll each piece of dough to form a rope about 40cm long. Twist the roll into the pretzel shape.

Space the pretzel shapes out on the baking tray. Cover again with a tea towel and leave to rise for another 30 minutes.

Lightly brush the risen pretzels with egg yolk and sprinkle with sea salt. Spray the pretzels twice with water and put them straight into the oven.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack.

Eat eat! Yum yum!

Pear and Pecan Pie.

After last week’s pear and almond tart I had a bunch of leftover pears that finally ripened. I spent a whole bunch of time flicking through my recipe books looking for a way to use them up. I found a recipe in Homestyle Pies and Tarts for pear and pecan pie. It was the first time i had made anything from this book so I was keen to try it out.

I have to say I like but don’t love this pie. It’s pretty tasty warmed up with icecream but doesn’t compare to the caramel apple pie i made a little while back. I think maybe it’s the pastry that let it down. For the time it took to make it I was a little disappointed it wasn’t soft and flaky as I expected. It was the first time I’d used vegetable shortening in a dough, so maybe I did something wrong.

Overall it was a pretty nice pie.

Pear and pecan pie

(Adapted from Homestyle Pies and Tarts)

For the pastry

2 cups plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
100 grams butter (cubed)
65 grams vegetable shortening (cubed)
1 tablespoon caster sugar
3-4 tablespoons cold water

For the filling

40 grams butter
½ cup golden syrup
2 tablespoons cornflour
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon mixed spice
4 thinly sliced pears
100 grams pecans (I used walnuts because I had them in the pantry)
1 tablespoon caster sugar

For the topping

1 tablespoon ground pecans
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg lightly beaten

To make the pastry- sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and shortening and rub ingredients together until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the water and using a flat bladed knife mix until the dough starts clumping together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball.
Press the dough down to form a disk wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. (While the dough chills make the filling)

Grease a 7 inch pie dish (I decided to try out my rectangular tart pan instead). Roll out two-thirds of the chilled dough between 2 sheets of baking paper. When the pastry is the right size and shape, line the pie dish and trim the edges.

Roll out the remaining pastry big enough to make the pie lid. Cover both the lid and base with cling wrap and chill for a further 20 mins.

To make the filling- gently melt together butter and golden syrup in a saucepan over medium heat.

When melted add the cornflour, ginger, lemon zest, and spice. Stir quickly to avoid it going lumpy.

Add the pears and half the chopped pecans and cook until pears are tender. Let mixture cool completely.

To assemble the pie- preheat oven to 200 degrees c.

Remove pie base and lid from the fridge. Combine the remaining pecans and caster sugar, scatter over the base before spooning in the filling.

Position the pie lid over the base, pinching the edges to seal. Trim away any excess.

Brush the pie lid with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with the ground pecans and sugar.

Bake pie on the middle oven rack for 20 minutes. Cover the pie with foil and reduce oven temp to 180 degrees c and bake for a further 20 mins. Remove from oven and let cool in tin. Serve warm or cold.