Monday, July 25, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

These are soooooo good. So very decadent, light and dense at the same time, and so full of flavour. The key is in using the best dark chocolate you can find (and afford) and organic black cherry or morello cherry preserve with no added sugar whatsover. I've tried it with the less elegant confections and the results were no where near this. These are great for a fancy dinner party at home because they look glossy, elegant and taste like a million bucks. They are expensive to bake but it's not like you do it every other day and it's a real treat for us adults. Yes, don't like them. Something about it tasting like port. That's great news for me!

Cappuccino Cupcakes

I love this more than the Espresso Cupcake. The golden coffee sponge is so light and fluffy that when picked up, the cupcake actually feels light! I've always baked and served these without the icing. Why? White chocolate is used to make the icing. A little info: white chocolate isn't actually chocolate. It's cocoa butter. So the flavour's very milky and disgustingly sweet. It's always very fiddly to cook or bake with white chocolate or even to temper it because it's volatile and you'll need to always adjust the sugar you use. But for the benefit of many, I did the icing this time. It was interesting....the sour cream took the sweetness of the white chocolate many times away but the powdered sugar required to thicken the icing and turn it from opaque yellowish to white pretty much doubles the original sweetness. I stopped sifting them in once it was sweet. I didn't want to ruin the great cupcake's taste with royal icing! So, you can see underneath the sifted cocoa is the thin layer of opaque white chocolate icing. Love, love, love Cappuccino Cupcakes.

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Last weekend, mum organised a family gathering of sorts and she requested that I bring some cupcakes over for dessert. Instead of whipping up our usual favourites, I thought I'd revisit some of HTBDG's cupcake recipes. The first was this - Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing. I didn't quite remember if I've done her recipe for this before but once I've finished them, and tasted one. I knew I had and it wasn't really good (for me, at least). It tasted extremely healthy! Crunchy and lots to chew. The saving grace is the cream cheese. Well, cream cheese makes everything yummier doesn't it? Let's put it this way, it wasn't "luscious and sweet and treaty" as the book wrote. It was breakfast scourge as the book said it wasn't. I'll stick to my own luscious, sweet and treaty carrot cake recipe thank you very much.

Cornish Pasties

Ms Lawson specifically insisted on using lard when making these pasties. She said, "...Cornish pasties are not fancy French baked goods meant to exude the flavour of expensive butter, and lard gives you the fluttery lightness you need." She's spot-on. Let's start with the pastry. It was light and almost biscuity. I expected pastry made from lard to be oilier but it wasn't at all. If anything, it was dry. I made them to be fat daddies as she recommended and you need light cold fingers to handle this pastry. But they held the filling in very well. For the filling, a tablespoon of lard was again recommended to cook the beef. I got some resistance while browning the diced beef and with the onions, potatoes and swede that followed after that, it was drying out. With the heat down, I seasoned the mix with mace, mustard, salt and pepper and let it slow cook for about 20 minutes. The filling didn't have much flavour except smelling annoyingly porky! I don't like that smell at all... I'm not sure if the British pigs are less porkier than ours to have lard used in both the pastry and the filling but I'd stick to using olive oil for my beef next time. So, to save the filling I added Worchesteshire sauce. That gave it the aroma I was looking for and some moisture. The pasties baked beautifully and we had it for dinner with a bowl of creamy mushroom soup. I didn't have time to cook some brown sauce to pour on the pasties and we found it too dry to eat it on its own. The kids even suggested that I add mushrooms in the filling. Aren't they smart? Mushrooms will produce some liquid when sauteed and that'll help moisten the dry filling. All in all, these pasties were too rusticly English countryside for me... J'aime goût de beurre chers (I like to taste expensive butter).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Torta Alla Gianduia

Too complicated sounding? Less fancily, Nutella Cake. Yes, a large jar of that sugar-laden chocolate hazelnut spread went into the cake. But you know what? Didn't taste the Nutella at all. By not having anymore sugar added to the mixture and using dark chocolate, the cake was perfectly balanced. In fact, I could taste the dark chocolate (100gms) more than Nutella (375gms) in the cake. I expected the cake to be much lighter with the whisked egg whites folded into the mixture but it turned out to be a dense cake, as you can see. But I could be wrong because after I topped the cake with ganache and hazelnuts, I popped it into the fridge. In our weather, ganache don't do very well at room temperature. It could may well be softer had it been outside. Nevertheless, it's a cake that has to be to be taken with coffee or tea. It somewhat lack the wow factor though... and I opened a new bottle of Frangelico for this! Looks like I've got to have the girls over and have a couple of shots each!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

London Cheesecake

Hah! After the New York Cheesecake, trust Nigella to come up with her native version - the London Cheesecake. Comparatively, this is way much easier to do than the New York cheesecake. For one, I spent less time on it (5 hours on New York!!!) and the result is a luscious and smooth cheesecake. The lemon juice in it plus the sour cream topping counter-balanced the sweetness and over-cheesiness which you usually get when 600gms of cream cheese is used for a small cake. The cake was cleaned out off the fridge within a day....that's how much you can eat when it tastes so divine, yet you feel that those 3 slices you took only went to your toes!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


As planned, here's another all-American favourite- Brownies. Like Nigella said in her intro to this recipe, I wonder why people don't bake brownies. They're the easiest to make right after muffins (actually, much easier than muffins!). In fact, whenever anyone asks me how to get started on baking at home, I always tell them to start with brownies. They are no skills involved in making them. Just melt and mix. Once they're ready and cooled, they cut beautifully and everyone loves a good slice of sweet chocolate. Even better with good vanilla ice-cream! They're also easy to manipulate for variation - toss in walnuts, pecans, raisins, chocolate chips or whatever you fancy or happen to have in the fridge. I once dumped in a cup of mini marshmallows for a Christmas party at home and they were fantastic! So, get your favourite chocolate out and start melting! I'm having bitter-chocolate brownies next ;-)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

American Breakfast Pancakes

It's 4th of July weekend and what's for breakfast this morning? Good ol' American Breakfast Pancakes. My lot are pancake people so whenever pancakes are on the menu for breakfast, they'd wait that extra 30 minutes (because they have to) just for a light and fluffy short stack. Young Master decided to be adventurous this morning and had a different topping for every piece of pancake - blueberries, strawberry jam and peanut butter. His conclusion was to stick to the proven combo of lots of butter and maple syrup. Me? I love them with blueberries ON TOP of "lots of butter and maple syrup". Yumm.. thinking of Brownies tomorrow to continue on with the 4th of July-all-American-favourites-theme.