Friday, December 25, 2015

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

With the holiday season comes delights for all to enjoy: parties, candy canes, pretty lights, gingerbread houses and...Starbucks Holiday Beverages! This year's offerings include the Chestnut Praline Latte, the Caramel Brûlé Latte, and my personal favourite, the Peppermint Mocha. Even though the Peppermint Mocha is actually available all year round, I was only recently inspired by it for my next cupcake. Silly me, I should have thought of this sooner! This concoction starts with an incredible peppermint mocha cupcake, is filled with a coffee ganache, and then topped with whipped cream and crushed candy cane. After researching many different recipes and trying to understand cake chemistry/magic, I learned that oil in cakes gives a nicer crumb but that butter gives a much nicer flavour, as expected. I decided to try half butter and half oil and the results are amazing. I hope you think so too!

Peppermint Mocha Cupcake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp peppermint extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup freshly brewed coffee
2 tsp instant coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cream the butter until smooth then slowly mix in the canola oil, buttermilk, vanilla extract and peppermint extract.
3. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the dry mixture to the wet in 3 parts.
5. Dissolve the instant coffee in the brewed coffee then slowly add to the batter. Once mixed, the batter will be very wet. You're going to think that something went wrong but please have faith!
6. Portion batter into prepared muffin tins with an ice cream scoop.
7. Bake for 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
8. Cool completely before continuing.

Coffee Ganache:
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp instant coffee

1. Add instant coffee to the cream and heat until just boiling.
2. Pour hot cream over chocolate and let sit for 3-5 minutes.
3. Gently whisk together until the mixture is smooth.
4. Allow to cool before filling the cupcakes.

Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy cream
4 tbsp icing sugar
Candy cane

1. Add icing sugar to the cream.
2. Beat with a wire whisk until stiff peaks form.

1. Using a pastry bag fitted with a metal tip, make a hole in the centre of the cupcake and fill generously with the coffee ganache.
2. Frost filled cupcakes with whipped cream and decorate with crushed candy canes or chocolate curls as desired.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Chocolate Chestnut Roulade

It's Easter and I'm making a cake. Except the cake that I have chosen to make is both annoying and expensive. Expensive due to the chestnut puree-enhanced whipped cream filling, and annoying because of the number of bowls needed. Twice as annoying if you only have one bowl that fits your stand mixer and you forget to beat the egg whites before the yolks. And then there's the timing of everything. Oi.
If only it were not so delicious...

6oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp instant coffee
4 tbsp hot water
6 eggs, separated
6 tbsp sugar, divided
5 tbsp flour
pinch of cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
cocoa powder, for dusting
2 cups whipping cream
2 tbsp spiced rum
1 1/2 sweetened chestnut puree
candied chestnuts, optional for decorating

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Prepare 15 1/2" x 10 1/2 rimmed cookie pan by lightly greasing it and lining with parchment paper.
3. Melt chocolate in a double boiler.
4. Dissolve the cocoa and instant coffee in the hot water.
5. Beat the egg whites with cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Sprinkle 3 tbsp of the sugar over the egg whites and add the vanilla extract. Continue beating the egg whites until stiff and glossy peaks form.
6. Transfer the egg whites into a separate bowl. (If you only have one bowl that fits your stand mixer.)
7. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining 3 tbsp of sugar until thick and pale yellow. (You can use the first bowl without washing it.) Beat in the melted chocolate and coffee mixture. Add flour and mix well.
8. Add a spoonful of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the rest.
9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 12-15 mins.
11. Dust a clean dish towel with cocoa powder.
10. Meanwhile, prepare the chestnut whipped cream filling. In a clean bowl, beat the whipped cream with the rum until stiff peaks form.
11. If the chestnut puree is too stiff, you may have to beat it and add water to make it easier to fold into the whipped cream. Beat in a spoonful of the whipped cream.
12. Gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
13. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, carefully flip it onto the cocoa-dusted dish towel. Peel off the parchment paper and roll the cake and the towel together into a Swiss roll. Allow the cake to cool until it is comfortably warm. It is extremely important to monitor this because if cools too much, the cake will crack when you unroll it to fill with the chestnut cream.
14. Unroll the cake and evenly spread 2/3 of the filling to an inch of the short ends and half an inch of the long ends.
15. Carefully roll up the cake again and place seam-side down on a serving plate.
16. Spread the remaining chestnut cream over the cake to cover it completely.
17. Decorate with candied chestnuts.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cranberry Almond Biscotti

Every Christmas I join millions of other bakers in making ridiculous amounts of cookies. I have my collection of recipes that I make every year: chocolate hazelnut crescents, chocolate almond macaroons, chocolate raspberry macaroon bars, gingerbread (of course), shortbread...This year I was asked to make cranberry almond biscotti, or as my baby sister calls it, 'scotti. I started with a recipe that my mother clipped from the Globe&Mail and true to form, altered it to my family's specific liking. Enjoy!

1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 c white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp almond extract
2 eggs
2 c flour
3/4 c chopped dried cranberries
3/4 c chopped almonds
2 tsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.
3. Add salt, baking powder and almond extract and mix well until combined.
4. Beat in eggs, one add a time. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with each addition. Beat on high for 3 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow.
5. Add the flour and mix until most of it, but not all, has been incorporated.
6. Fold in the cranberries and almonds until the dough is fairly homogeneous.
7. Turn the dough over onto the the parchment-lined cookie sheet and form it into a log that is approximately 8cm wide and as long as your cookie sheet.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the log is slightly golden around the edges.
9. Cool the log for 20 minutes.
10. Lower the temperature of the oven to 325°C.
11. Lightly brush the milk over the top and sides of the log with a pastry brush. Allow the milk to soak in for 5 minutes.
12. Using a sharp knife, cut the log at an angle into slices of about 2cm thick.
13. Place the slices upright on the cookie sheet and bake for another 20-25 mins until dry and a bit golden on the sides.
14. Cool and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Midnight Cravings: Coconut cupcakes with Whipped White Chocolate Frosting

Growing up I never really liked anything with coconut and preferred dark chocolate over white chocolate, but lately I have found that I am craving both flavours more and more. Late one night, when my cravings usually take over, I was inspired to create a white chocolate coconut cupcake. The original recipe for the coconut cupcake is from Bon Appetit but I have modified it to my own liking. It is so good that I think I ate almost half of them before I even had the chance to frost them!

Coconut Cupcake:
2 cans coconut milk
2 c all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c butter
1 1/3 c sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or another 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
1 tbsp Malibu coconut rum (optional)

1. In a large pot, bring coconut milk to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce to medium-low heat.
2. Reduce coconut milk to 1 cup.
3. Transfer reduced coconut milk to a container and cool completely.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F.
5. Cream the butter until smooth then beat in the sugar until fluffy.
6. Add 2 eggs, mixing well after each addition.
7. Add vanilla extract and seeds from vanilla bean and mix well, then add the last egg.
8. Add 1 cup of the flour, the baking powder and salt and mix until just combined.
9. Add cooled, reduced coconut milk and mix well to incorporate.
10. Add second cup of flour and mix until just combined.
11. Portion batter into prepared muffin tins.
12. Bake for 15-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
13. Cool completely before frosting.

Whipped White Chocolate Frosting
1 c whipping cream
3 c chopped white chocolate

1. Using a double boiler, heat cream and chocolate over boiling water. Stir until white chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is completely smooth.
2. Cool mixture completely.
3. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, whip white chocolate mixture until it forms stiff peaks and can hold its shape.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Pie Crusts

It was the best of pies, it was the worst of pies. Well not really, but I thought I'd continue my salute to Charles Dickens. I guess this story really begins when a friend and I invited another friend over for dinner and he said that he would make a pie and be over in about an hour. I scoffed at him and said that there was no way in the world that he could make a pie in an hour. And so the challenge began: he had one hour to make a proper homemade pie and not a minute more. Exactly one hour later, I texted him to see if he was done yet. He was not. He was done about seven minutes later, which was still very impressive. Although he did cheat and use a canned pie filling, it was nevertheless quite tasty, most likely due to the crust. Apparently, it was a secret family recipe that had won many a pie contest. I did eventually get the recipe from my friend but was sworn to secrecy so it will not be posted here.

The first time I used this recipe was to make a pear pie for my dad's birthday. Not apple. Pear. Pear because my dad has always insisted that pear pie is better than apple pie and that he doesn't understand why apple pie is so popular. So I indulged him, and looked for pear pie filling recipes to use with my friend's pie crust. The one that I decided to use was published in the February 2005 issue of Bon Appétit. The full recipe can be found here:

Pear and Almond Filling

4 Bosc pears, peeled
4 cups water
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

*It is very important to use Bosc pears. I did try using other pears such as Bartletts, but they were not as juicy or as sweet.*
**I reduced the sugar from the original recipe.**

1. Add water, sugar and lemon juice to a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat and add the pears.
2. Cook until the pears are tender and you can easily pierce it all the way through with a fork.
3. Cool in syrup until ready to use.

Almond Filling:
2/3 c blanched slivered almonds
1 tbsp flour
7 tbsp sugar
3/8 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract

1. Add almonds, flour and sugar to a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.
2. Add butter and blend until smooth.
3. Add egg and almond extract and mix until well blended.
4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and chill until relatively hard. This can be done for 30 minutes in the freezer or an hour in the fridge.

*I added almond extract to the recipe to bring out more of the almond flavour.*

For the pie that I made for my dad's birthday, I used Bartlett pears and they were not as juicy so I decided to make it again with Bosc pears, which were the pears that the original recipe called for. I also made the pie with my friend's secret recipe, but I was interested to see how that crust compared with a more flaky pie crust. I was really interested to try a pie crust that I saw on America's Test Kitchen that they described as being fool-proof. So the following weekend, I made another two Pear and Almond pies, one with the secret recipe and the other with the ATK recipe, also this time with Bosc pears.

ATK Pie Crust:
2 1/2 c flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c cold butter, in 1/2 inch thick pieces
1/2 c cold vegetable shortening, in 4 pieces
1/4 c water
1/4 c vodka

*I reduced the salt from the original recipe because I thought the crust was a little salty.*

1. Add 1 1/2 c flour, sugar and salt to a food processor and pulse twice to aerate and mix.
2. Add the cold butter and vegetable shortening and process until the dough comes together.
3. Add the remaining cup of flour and give the mixture 4-6 pulses.
4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in the water and vodka.
5. Form the dough into a ball and divide it into two pieces. Wrap the pieces in plastic wrap and chill them in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Caution: This dough will feel completely wrong when you're making it, but trust me, it works. And it is completely fool-proof. There were a couple times when I was making it that I doubted it would turn out or thought that I had messed up, but the crust was perfect.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Generously flour your work surface and the top of one piece of dough.
3. Roll it out into a circle until it is big enough to fit your pie plate. This dough is relatively wet as pie doughs go, so don't be afraid to add more flour to the keep it from sticking.
4. Take out the chilled almond filling and with tablespoonfuls at a time, flatten it in between your palms and line the crust with the filling.
5. Cut the stewed pears in half lengthwise and cut out the stems and cores. Slice the pear halves crosswise and lay them on top of the filling in concentric circles.
6. Roll out the other piece of dough. You can either roll it out into a circle and cut out vents with a cookie cutter, or roll it into a rectangle and cut it into strips to make a lattice top.
7. Trim the edges and press them together to fuse them. You can also press the tip of a fork all around the edge to make it look nicer.
8. Bake for an hour until the top it nicely browned.
9. Cool and enjoy!

Both pie crusts were delicious but the ATK crust was more of a true flaky pie crust, while the "secret" crust was more like a giant cookie. I like both, but some people may prefer one or the other.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Piña Colada Cupcakes

My latest obsession has been the Piña Colada...not the syrupy slurpee-like monstrosity that you get at your local chain grill/bar/"restaurant," but the real thing made from pineapple juice, coconut milk, and of course, rum. It has been my drink of the summer and this obviously led to me to being determined to make it into a cupcake. Instead of making a pineapple and coconut cake with a pineapple and coconut icing, I decided to make a pineapple cupcake with a coconut frosting. The first batch of pineapple cupcakes that I made were good but was lacking in a strong pineapple flavour and could have been a little more moist. The icing also did not have as much coconut as I would have liked. So I proceeded to alter the recipe to add more flavour and more moisture. I boiled down pineapple juice until it became a thick syrup and added more crushed pineapple to the batter. For the frosting, I completely replaced the butter with concentrated coconut milk that had also been boiled down. The end result was a moist cupcake that really tastes of pineapple and is not too sweet. The coconut milk icing definitely tastes like coconut and its sweetness may be adjusted depending on how much the coconut milk is boiled down. Since the cupcake itself is not very sweet, a sweeter icing may add a nice balance, depending on your preference.

Here's my final recipe, hope you enjoy it!

Pineapple Cupcakes:
1/2 c unsalted butter
2/3 c sugar
2 tbsp crushed pineapple
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp half & half or milk
3 c pineapple juice (about 1 c can be drained from a can of crushed pineapple)
3/4 c crushed pineapple

Coconut Icing:
400mL can coconut milk
5+ c icing sugar

1. In a medium pot, boil pineapple juice until there is 1/3 c left. It should be thick and syrupy. Set aside to cool.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare muffin tins with cupcake liners.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter then beat in the sugar until fluffy.
4. Beat in the first two tablespoons of pineapple until well incorporated.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
6. Beat in the vanilla extract.
7. Add the flour and baking powder then mix until just combined. Do not overmix.
8. Add in the half & half or milk and 2 tbsp of the pineapple syrup. Mix well.
9. Stir in the remaining crushed pineapple.
10. Portion the batter into the prepared tins.
11. Bake for 13-15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
12. Cool completely before frosting.

1. In a saucepan, boil coconut milk until nice and thick. Set aside to cool.
2. Once cooled, mix in icing sugar 1 c at a time for the first four cups. After this, add 1/3 c at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

This icing may be a little sticky and hard to spread on a cupcake. If you are not icing the cupcakes with a pastry bag and tip, it is easiest to spoon a little into your hand, roll it into a ball, then flatten it directly onto the cupcake. This also has the added advantage of making the icing look smooth and shiny.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Banana-Choco-PB Cupcakes

I recently started taking cake decorating classes given by Wilton at my local craft store and for one of the classes we had to bring in cupcakes to practice filling and decorating. Thinking of my friend Megan, I decided to make banana cupcakes and fill them with chocolate ganache, then top them with peanut butter frosting. We also learned how to make a shaggy mum out of buttercream and that is what is on top of peanut butter frosting swirl.

I found the banana cupcake recipe on Martha Stewart's website:

1/2 c unsalted butter, melted
4 ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare muffin tins with cupcake liners.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add in melted butter, mashed bananas, eggs and vanilla extract into the well.
4. Stir until combined. Make sure you don't overmix the batter.
5. Using an ice cream scoop, divide the batter amongst 12 cupcakes.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, checking to make sure an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
7. Cool on a cooling rack.

While the cupcakes were cooling, I started on the chocolate ganache. The key to working with chocolate is to use good quality chocolate. Do not use chocolate chips because they will not melt properly.

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 whipping cream

1. Place the chopped chocolate into a medium mixing bowl.
2. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it begins to boil. Pour it over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for 3 minutes.
3. Whisk the chocolate and cream together until the mixture becomes smooth.
4. Allow the ganache to sit overnight.

The next day, I filled the cupcakes with the chocolate ganache using a piping bag and a #230 tip.

I made peanut butter frosting to top the cupcakes with:

1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 c creamy peanut butter
2 c icing sugar, maybe more

1. Beat the butter until creamy.
2. Add the peanut butter and beat until fully incorporated.
3. Mix in the icing sugar a cup at a time.
4. The mixture will be very stiff. Mix in milk a teaspoon at a time to get the right consistency. At this point you can add in more sugar or peanut butter or milk in order to get the right amount of sweetness or flavour and the right consistency that you want in your frosting.