Monday, 30 April 2012

Vanilla coconut cupcakes - Cupcake book club

Kelly,, has the most fantastic blog, everything looks yummy, don't read it if you are hungry!

In a fantastic flash of inspiration she has started a cupcake book club, the basic premise is to read a book with a foodie theme then bake a delicious treat inspired by the book. You can read all the details here, why don't you join in?

This months book is called Love in the making (also called Semi sweet: A novel of love and cupcakes) by Roisin Meany and it centres on Hannah opening a cupcake shop in Ireland. Lots of flavours of cupcake are mentioned but not specific execution, which allows you to be creative.

The words vanilla coconut jumped out at me and that was the starting point for my cupcake.

I made a vanilla cupcake filled with a coconut pastry cream, this was frosted with a marshmallow frosting and the whole thing topped with toasted dessicated coconut.

Vanilla Coconut cupcakes

makes 12

For the cakes:

125g butter at room temperature
125g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste (what I would recommend) or 1 tsp vanilla extract (NOT vanilla flavouring)
2 medium eggs at room temperature
125g self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk 

For the pastry cream:

2 egg yolks (you will use the whites in the frosting)
50g caster sugar
12g plain flour
175ml coconut milk (I used light)

For the marsmallow frosting:

225g caster sugar
3 tablespoons water
2 egg whites at room temperature
pinch salt
pinch cream of tarter

First make the pastry cream to allow it time to chill in the fridge. 

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and flour until light and thick. 

Put the coconut milk in a saucepan and bring it slowly just up to the boil. Pour the hot coconut milk onto the egg mixture slowly, whisking all the time. Return the mixture to the pan and stir over a low-medium heat until it comes up to a gentle boil. (It must boil for it to thicken.) Continue to cook, stirring all the time, for 2 minutes or until it has thickened.  Mine thickened very quickly.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour into a bowl.

Cover with Clingfilm, the surface of the Clingfilm must touch the custard or a skin will form, and allow to completely cool in the fridge.

Next make the cakes. Beat your butter, sugar and vanilla together until very light and fluffy, this can take up to 7 minutes (!) depending on the speed of your mixer, thankfully it takes me about 3-4.

Add the eggs one at a time and beat for a further two minutes.

Add the flour and baking powder and mix until just combined. Finally add 3 tbsp of milk and mix till combined

Fill each of your cases 2/3 full and bake in a preheated oven at 180/Fan 160oC for ~20minutes. They are done when they are lightly springy on top. Allow the cakes to fully cool on a wire rack. 

Once the cakes are completely cool cut out a cone and fill the cavity with the pastry cream, put the cone back in, trimming it to fit. 

Next make the frosting. In a small saucepan, combine the caster sugar with the water and bring to a boil over a moderately high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved, this will take ~2 to 3 minutes.

Beat the egg whites (with a hand or free standing electric whisk) with the pinches of cream of tartar and salt until soft peaks form.

With the mixer at medium speed, carefully pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites, make sure you keep whisking as you pour the syrup in.  Continue beating the frosting until cool and billowy, the bottom of the bowl should feel cool, this will take about 5 minutes. 

Pipe swirls onto the top of the cupcakes and top with toasted dessicated coconut. (to do this just put dessicated coconut in a pan and toast lightly till golden, keep an eye on it, it will turn very quickly).

These cupcakes are one of the nicest I have eaten in a long time, the flavours and textures are made for each other. The general consensus is that the frosting could be eaten straight from the bowl with a spoon. Nb. Do keep an eye on your frosting otherwise partners/lodgers/houseguests might just well attempt to do this from under your nose...

The only downside was I gave most of these away as gifts. I am under strict instructions to make them again soon and this time not let one solitary cupcake out of our front door!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Cookies and cream cupcakes

I mentioned a few posts back about baking a selection of cupcakes to give away. I have already detailed the raspberry champagne cupcakes and next up is the turn of the cookies and cream cupcake.

Everybody probably has their own interpretation of how exactly this cupcake should be assembled but this is the one I came up with on the day. A chocolate cupcake filled with bits of broken Oreo, and a vanilla buttercream, containing finely crushed Oreos, as the frosting. The whole thing was topped with half an Oreo.

The chocolate cupcake recipe that I used was the basic chocolate cupcake recipe from the hummingbird bakery. Of course if you have another favourite chocolate cupcake recipe use that instead! I only needed 6 cupcakes and found that 3 Oreos broken up into the batter mix was enough to give each cupcake plenty of texture.

Cookies and cream cupcakes

Makes 12

For the cakes:

100g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
40g soft unsalted butter
120ml whole milk (I used semi skimmed and all was fine)
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla paste
6 Oreos broken up

For the frosting:

80g butter
250g icing sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
3-4 Oreos, very finely crushed
6 Oreos cut in half

Preheat the oven to 1700C/Fan 150oC and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with paper cases.

Put the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and butter in a large bowl and beat on a slow speed, with either an electric hand mixer or free standing mixer, until well combined and a sandy consistency.

Whisk the egg, milk and vanilla extract together in a jug and add half to the dry mixture.

Beat slowly to combine and then a little quicker to beat out any lumps. Add the remaining liquid mixture and beat slowly to combine. Do not over-mix. Finally fold in most the broken up Oreos reserving a few pieces. 

Divide the mixture between the cases, each one 2/3 full, sprinkle the top of each one with a few pieces of the reserved broken up Oreos. Bake the cupcakes for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven until they spring back to the touch. Note the mixture will be very slack, do not panic this is how it should be.

Remove from oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frosting beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla together, at first the mixture will look a sandy consistency, but be patient, it will eventually come together. Add the milk a table spoon at a time, and continue to beat for 3-5 minutes until very light and fluffy. Finally slowly beat in your fine crushed Oreos until combined.

Using a piping bag or a palette knife frost the cupcakes and top them with half an Oreo. 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Oreo brownies

I have a brownie pan that is calling out to me to be put to proper use. I bought it during lent whilst I was off chocolate and so clearly no brownies were going to be made then. It did not languish in my cupboard for months however, it has had a couple of outings, first to hold my cinnamon buns and secondly for foccacia bread.

But now the time has come, I want brownies, and the pan can at last fulfil its true purpose.

I had half a pack of oreos left from baking cupcakes at the weekend, and figured waste not want not, and lobbed them in too. If you want plain brownies just leave them out!

Oreo brownies (Adapted slightly from Hummingbird bakery cookbook)

200g dark chocolate
175g butter
300g caster sugar
115g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
3 eggs
Oreos broken up (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170oC/fan 150oC and line you brownie pan with baking parchment.

Melt the chocolate and butter until smooth (I did this in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water).

Once melted, remove the butter chocolate mix from the heat and stir in the sugar until fully incorporated.

Add the flour and cocoa powder to the bowl and mix until combined.

Beat the eggs lightly with a fork and add to the bowl, mix until smooth and then finally stir through the oreos.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and cook for 30-35 minutes until lightly flaky ontop but not overcooked.

Leave to cool in the pan then cut into chunks.

A few notes, I only had 7 oreos left but I think 10 would be a good number to go in oreo brownies.

These brownies were lovely and fudgy in the middle, and I am one of those people who like a bit of a crisper edge, however my very corner pieces were maybe a tad crisper then even I like. I think next time I would cook them in my oven for 30 minutes. Every oven varies so it may be a case of trial and error with your brownies, even so I have no doubt that they will be delicious.

Finally my recipe says to cut into 12 chunks, even as an avid brownie lover that seemed large! So I cut into 20 chunks, I have no issues with people going back for seconds!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Easy Focaccia

This is a nice and easy focaccia bread that takes minimal effort from you, the bread does the rest of the work!

The recipe below is for a plain focaccia bread, feel free to tart it up with whatever takes your fancy.

You could use favoured olive oil to add a different taste, or sprinkle over some rosemary before cooking. Alternatively you could add ingredients to your dough before kneading, such as chopped olives, chopped sundried tomato, chilli flakes or any combination of the above.

Plain Focaccia bread (Hairy Bikers)

makes 1 loaf

500g strong white flour
7g sachet of fast action fried yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil + extra for greasing
300ml warm water

3 tbsp olive oil 
2 tbsp sea salt flakes
1 tsp ground black pepper

Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt into a bowl. Mix the olive oil and water and add to the dry ingredients. 

Stir with a wooden spoon, then bring the dough together with your hands.

Knead the dough, on a lightly floured surface, for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic and then place into a lightly oiled bowl. 

Cover the bowl with clingfilm, leave in a warm place and allow the dough to rise and double in size  for about an hour.

Lightly oil a large baking tray (I used my brownie tin as my baking sheet does not have suitable sides). Tun the dough onto a floured surface and knock it back. Press the dough into a rectangle roughly the size of your baking tray. Carefully place the dough o the baking tray and ease it out to meet the sides.
Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise for a further 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 220/200 fan. After 30 minutes your dough should look light and spongy. Remove the clingfilm  and use your finger to push dimples in the dough, right through to the bottom of the tray. 
Drizzle the olvie oil over the top of the dough, allowing it do trickle into the dimples. Sprinkle your salt and pepper over the dough along with any other toppings as you so wish.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 15-20 minutes, unti lwell risen and golden brown. 
This bread lends itself to dipping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or as part of a platter style meal.

We filled it with left over chicken, mozzarella, fesh basil and pesto and put it in a sandwich press to make a divine evening meal.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Raspberry champagne cupcakes

Phew I have just finished a marathon 3 1/2 hour baking bonanza. I wanted to make cupcakes as a thank you to someone, and not knowing what they liked I went for 3 different types!

I decided on raspberry champagne, cookies and cream and a rather special vanilla coconut (more on that in a later post).

If you are lucky enough to live in Edinburgh you may have heard of the cuckoo bakery and there seemingly never ending range of cupcakes. Check them out on facebook or visit their website here. The raspberry champagne cupcake recipe is courtesy of them, you can find it here.

The cupcakes themselves are not hard to make, they just take a little longer as they are assembled in a few stages. First the cake is made and allowed to cool, it is then filled with a champagne raspberry jam mix and finally topped with a champagne buttercream frosting.

The recipe makes 12, so I halved it to get 6, my cakes rose a little too well, I reckon that I could actually get 7 from it. Besides the frosting covered the dome so it was no huge problem.

The cupcake is lovely, I can definitely taste the champagne in the frosting and it gives the raspberry jam such a lovely fizzy tang. I personally feel it does subtly flavour the sponge, though you may not be aware that the flavour is champagne.
Oh confession time, I did not use champagne (shock horror)  I chose instead a cava with a biscuity taste, similar to a champagne. If you wish to splash out go ahead, you could really elevate your cupcakes to the next level!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Caramel Biscuits

These are delicious little biscuits, another from the Hairy Bikers book of baking. They are relatively simple to make, don't be too daunted by the caramel, its surprisingly easy.

The only thing that I would not do, that the recipes suggests, is flattening your biscuits before they go in the oven. As they spread. A lot. I reckon they will flatten and spread by themselves without any help before they go in the oven.

So although my biscuits spread a little too much (thank heavens for palette knives or they would still be on the baking sheet!) and certainly will not win any prizes in a beauty contest they do taste divine. Crunchy caramel on the very edges of the biscuit and soft chewy caramel within the biscuit itself. These are just lovely. 

Caramel Biscuits

50g caster sugar
tbsp water

150g caster sugar (I used 100g caster and 50g light brown sugar thanks to not buying caster sugar)
125g butter
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

First make the caramel, heat the sugar and water over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Then turn up the heat and allow to simmer gently, without stirring, until the sugar turns a golden brown caramel colour.

Pour the caramel onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and tilt the tray so that a nice even layer of caramel forms. It does not matter what shape it is, it will be broken up. Mine looks like some sort of amoeba. Leave the caramel to harden and cool for at least 15 minutes. DO NOT TOUCH HOT SUGAR!

Preheat the oven to 180/160 fan

Cream together the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until light and creamy. 
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir to combine. 

Take the cooled caramel and snap/bash into small (3-5mm) pieces and stir in to the dough. 

You will most likely need to bring the dough together with your hands, it is very short and crumbly.

Roll the dough into balls and place onto baking sheets lined with baking parchment. Makes sure they are placed well apart as they will spread a lot during baking. I found the dough was a little short to roll really well so I used a tbsp to scoop up balls of dough and gently deposited them on the sheets.

The recipe says to flatten the balls to 1cm thick but I would not recommend doing this as they spread really thin, maybe just a little squish with your hands to secure them to the sheet is best.

Cook for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Leave to firm up on the sheets then transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Wholegrain spelt, chorizo and ham bread

Feeling all sugared out after the excess of Easter it was quite clear that my next project would have to be a savoury one. Thankfully the Hairy bikers once again came to my rescue with a delicious sounding wholegrain spelt, ham and chorizo loaf.

The first test was tracking down the spelt flour but I easily found it in Sainsbury’s, the first place I looked. I suspect the other supermarkets may stock it also.
You need a little time to make this but it is well worth the effort.

Wholegrain spelt bread with chorizo and ham (Hairy Bikers, Big book of baking)

450g wholegrain spelt flour
2tsp baking powder
7g sachet of fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
300ml water
75g sliced chorizo torn into pieces
100g sliced ham torn into pieces

Mix the flour, baking powder, yeast and salt in large bowl.  Add the water and mix well until a dough forms, I started with a spoon and then moved in with my hands. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 1-2minutes. The gluten in spelt is fragile so this is all the kneading that it needs.  Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave to double in size,~ 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180/160oC and lightly flour a baking sheet. Tip the dough onto a floured surface, and knock it back. Roll out the dough into a rectangle 20cm by 30cm, and then scatter the dough evenly with the torn up meat. 

From the short side, roll up the dough, just like a swiss roll. Place the loaf onto the baking sheet, join side down. 

Cook for 45-50 minutes until that loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Place the loaf on a wire rack to cool.

This loaf Is delicious served warm with cheese, apple slices and grapes. It would serve four for lunch ( or two very hungry people substantially for an evening meal with ample left over for the next days lunch)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Sooty's cupcakery

Hidden away on Castlegate in York is Sooty's cupcakery. As far as I am aware this is the first cupcakery that York has. As much as I love Yorkshire baking treats (curd tart, yum) there is always room for more, so hurrah for Sootys.

When I went in it was very quiet, its possibly as it was lunchtime and most people perhaps do not consider a cupcake as lunch food. 

There were a number of different variety's of cupcake on display along with a few homemade biscuits too (these were HUGE). Flavours of cupcake today included vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, lemon curd, mint crunch, hazelnut mocha, baileys and a divine looking one with an oreo on top! 

Having selected the lemon curd one along with a cup of tea I was very pleasantly surprised at the grand total of £2.48. Its a decent sized cake and decent mug of tea, I would not get a coffee in many chains for that.

Once seated I had a better nosey at their price board. £1.49 for the cupcakes, £0.99 for a variety of tea, £1.80 for cappuccino's and mocha's. Not sure how much an americano was but you can bet your bottom dollar that it is highly reasonable too. 

There is some seating inside, enough for 8 people I think, and as it was quiet and kind of drizzling outside, I stayed in to enjoy my cupcake.

The cake itself was lovely and moist with a nice flavour and had a generous dollop of lemon curd baked into the centre. The frosting was luscious and smooth, and subtly vanilla flavoured. There was another dollop of lemon curd on the top too. 

All in all I very much enjoyed my cake and would definitely go back (the oreo one is calling to me!). I urge any yorkies or people visiting York to hunt it out and enjoy a lovely piece of homebaking without breaking the bank.


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Easter mini egg cupcakes

I know, I know Easter has been and gone. In my defence I have not been lazy and posted days late, I have only just made these and I have stockpiled mini eggs so I could!

The premise for them is very easy.

Pick your favourite vanilla cupcake recipe, and pick your favourite chocolate cupcake recipe.  Admittedly I am still striving to find my favourites of these. Frosting is nearly there but the chocolate cupcake could do with work.  

Bash up some of your mini eggs, making sure you reserve enough for the tops!

That’s the last picture until the end I wanted to take more but many disasters hampered my efforts. Firstly I had forgotten to take the butter out, I ran out of eggs, my little electric mixer broke, (poor mark was dispatched for new replacements on both theses occasions!). This meant a total rush with barely enough time for cupcakes let alone pictures!

Make your batter for both the chocolate and vanilla cupcakes.

Once the batter is made, scoop 1 spoonful into each bun case.

Stir the bashed up eggs into the remaining batter of each cupcake mix and finish filling up the cases. I fill them this way as a preventative measure, I was trying to prevent my bits of egg sinking and sticking, which could make the cases hard to remove.

Cook your cupcakes and allow to cool.

Top your vanilla cupcakes with a chocolate frosting and chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting.

On go the reserved mini eggs and voila, easter nest cupcakes.  

I like my vanilla cupcake recipe but I think that I need to keep looking for that perfect chocolate cupcake recipe.

Stirring a bar of melted and cooled green and blacks 85% chocolate into the chocolate frosting prevents it from being too sweet and makes it lovely and chocolatey.

Make sure you add plenty of vanilla to your vanilla frosting, I personally like vanilla paste or pods, nobody wants to taste pure butter and icing sugar.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Cinnamon buns

So I promised you another American themed post and here it is.

 I cannot explain why I had such a cinnamon bun craving but I did, cinnamon is not even my favourite spice, mind you it has gone up in my estimation since I made these.

I found this recipe on happyhomebaking, the author had adapted it from a recipe posted by ‘Kitchenmage’ who had adapted it from ‘The pioneer women’, and I myself have tweaked it just a little. That’s the best thing about baking, it’s the little tweaks that make it personal.

There are only two of us, myself and the 'live in chief taster' (M) but the recipe below is easily doubled if you have a family to feed.

Warning you will need to start this recipe the day BEFORE you want your cinnamon buns for breakfast.

Cinnamon buns

For the dough:

125ml skimmed or semi skimmed milk
25g light brown sugar
30ml vegetable oil (I used ground nut oil)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
125g + 15g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt

for the filling:

1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
25g light brown sugar
25g unsalted butter
30g currants


Mix milk, sugar and vegetable oil in a pan. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then leave to cool for 15 minutes.

Place 125g plain flour and instant yeast in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the above mixture. Stir with a spatula until the mixture comes together to form a thick batter. Cover and let the batter sit for at least 1 hour.

Add in the remaining 15g flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir until the mixture comes together.
Cover and leave to chill in fridge for at least four hours. (Note: dough will be more firm and easier to work with if left to chill in fridge).

When ready to make the rolls, melt the butter sugar and cinnamon together in a pan.
Dust the work surface with flour, dust the dough with flour too. Roll out the dough into a rectangular shape. Then roll out as thin as possible. Dust the dough and work surface with flour when necessary.

Brush the rolled out dough with melted butter mix. I used a pastry brush, even a palette knife was too rough with this very delicate and soft dough. Sprinkle the currants evenly over the surface.

Start from the opposite end of the dough, roll the dough neatly in a line towards you. Roll as tightly as possible. Dust fingers with flour if the dough feels sticky. Pinch the seams to seal.

Cut into 1 inch thick slices and arrange on baking pan (I used my brownie tray) greased with a little butter. Place the rolls close together but not touching.

Cover and leave to rise overnight in the fridge. The next morning, if rolls have doubled in size, bake them right away. Otherwise leave to sit on counter until double in size before baking

Bake in preheated oven at 180oC for 20mins until golden brown.

For me this made 8 smallish buns, you could easily cut into 6 bigger ones. I also cooked all 8 at once, not all were eaten that morning, so some got reheated the next day. They were fine like this but definitely better fresh. Next time I may leave 4 in the fridge till the next morning and have fresh baked buns the next day too!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Chocolate peanut chip cookies

A little bit of an American theme for the next couple of posts.

On a recent trip to Florida I brought back a HUGE bag of Reese’s peanut butter chips. 
They look exactly like chocolate chips but, you’ve guessed it, they are made with peanuts. By themselves they are lovely and creamy, I challenge you to not eat them straight from the bag!

For my first lot of baking with them I decided to add them to a staple favourite of mine, the chocolate chip cookie. The verdict? They are delicious. I am now plotting more fates for these lovely chips, and, as I can buy them online, I need not book another trip to Florida to get more, mind you it’s not the worst idea…

Chocolate peanut chip cookies (Adapted from Hugh Fearnly Wittingstall)

Recipe makes  15

Butter 125g
Caster sugar 100g
Light brown sugar 75g (dark will do if that’s whats in your cupboard)
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
Plain flour 150g
½ tsp baking powder
50g milk chocolate chopped (I like to use dairy milk)
30g Reese’s peanut butter chips.

Preheat you oven to 190oC/170OC fan. Grease and flour two baking sheets.

Melt the butter over a low heat. Add the sugars to a bowl and stir in the butter. Add the egg and vanilla and mix till combined.

Add the flour and baking powder and mix until almost combined. Add both the chocolate and peanut chips and mix until thoroughly combined.

Drop spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden around the edges.

Leave to cool on the sheets for a minute or two and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.