Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

I have been wanting to try this cupcake recipe for about 6 months. I like to think of my favourite desserts and turn them into cup cakes, perfect little single servings of heaven.

I make a mean Lemon Meringue Pie and I have received lemons from various fruit trees around town a number of times but just haven’t got around to it – there is always another cupcake that takes my eye.

You see, this one takes a bit more effort than the standard cupcake, and if I had a shop (a girl can dream) this would fall into my gourmet range.

The cake itself is a lemon flavoured cupcake, nothing too out of the ordinary. The cake was very moist and just yummy.

The middle layer is lemon curd. I made it the day before the cupcake and meringue just so it had time to set and cool. A great tip Martha Stewart gives is to place the plastic wrap over the top and make it touch the curd so you don’t get that thick skin. She is so clever!

I started cutting out a bit of the top of the cake and filling it with the lemon curd but quickly tired of that as I was time poor, so ended up just smoothing it over the top as Martha had suggested.

The reason I was time poor is that I had just dropped my daughter off at Kinder and was due to pick her up two hours later. I like all my cakes to be eaten fresh and the meringue definitely is best the same day. It also needs to be piped on as soon as it is ready as it sets quickly. So I needed to make cakes, cool cakes, decorate cakes, torch cakes and deliver cakes all in a two hour window. Nothing like a challenge!

The meringue is the Seven Minute Frosting from Martha Stewart that I have made previously for my Snickerdoodle Cupcake entry. I would recommend halving the recipe though, as I have never used more than half the quantity it makes, and I had 40 cupcakes to pipe.

I have taken a few more photos so you can see how it all comes together. It looks a bit tricky, but it is quite simple compared to other meringue versions I have tried. Only hitch is that it is probably best not to have small children or clumsy adults around when you do it, as it involves heat. And another tip is don’t do what I did and throw the candy thermometer into the cold dish water straight from the saucepan – good bye thermometer! Sob, sob, sob. Only brought the thing at Christmas!

First you put the white sugar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan, stirring every now and then until boiling, then leave it alone until your thermometer reaches 230 degrees.

Meanwhile beat 6 egg whites in your trusty kitchenaid until soft peaks form, add two tablespoons of sugar.

Then, add your boiling sugar syrup slowly while beating at a low speed and beat away for seven minutes or until cooled and stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Seriously YUM!

Anyway, on the plus side, I got to use a new toy! I bought a kitchen size blow torch at Christmas and have been dying to try it out. It only costs about $35 and takes Butane gas, available in supermarkets, and is really easy to use. It browned off the meringue nicely, although I may have been a bit light on. Practice makes perfect, so I will keep practising! Here's the photo - anyone know how to make the blog rotate the photo??

How did I go with my time challenge? Mission accomplished! You didn’t doubt me did you? What’s more, that was three days ago, and I am still being stopped in the corridor by the Workaholic’s staff to tell me how good they were. Obviously, passed the taste challenge too!

mmmmm, look at that lemon curd and the meringue...

Huge success and I would highly recommend them. I am still coming off the sugar high from the meringue though! LOL!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines Day - Brownie Heart Cupcakes

Lately, I have been loving trying some of the Martha Stewart Cupcakes from her website, so much so that I have just ordered a couple of her books online.

Most of you have figured out I am a big chocolate fan but chocolate in cupcakes tends to elude me. I have the perfect flourless chocolate cupcake recipe, the perfect brownie recipe, the perfect chocolate mud cake recipe, but I struggle with other chocolate recipes. I don't know what it is. I probably need to talk to a food scientist or professional baker. I can not tell you how many of my recipes have ended up as "chocolate pudding", "chocolate triffle" or just plain in the bin!

I have had such a good run lately that I was super confident with this recipe - I did quiver at one point and thought "you have the perfect brownie recipe, why not use that to make these" but no, I forged ahead with Martha's recipe, she had served me well.

The recipe is fairly straight forward and I followed it to the letter. Basically make half the mix into cupcakes and the other half into a brownie slab. I was a bit pressed for time as I needed to pick up my daughter from kinder at the time they would be ready. But it all worked out, they were ready early and I pulled out these perfectly formed and slightly risen delights, very excited about turning them into the "master pieces". I wanted to take a photo of them, they were so perfect, but as I said, I was running off to kinder pick up, so left them on the bench.

Here is where I really wished I had taken that photo - twenty minutes later I arrived home to take my perfect little brownie cupcakes out of the tin to find disaster! My perfectly formed brownies had sunk and cracked. WHY, WHY, WHY?

Luckily it didn't alter the yummy taste and I decided to go with "rustic" brownies - who knows, Martha's picture had the whole cupcake covered in icing so maybe they do crack and look rustic underneath (wishfull thinking!). I iced them with vanilla butter cream and cut the hearts out of the brownie slab. I thought with a bit of red heart presentation they came up well and they disappeared in about 3 minutes. So quickly that the Workaholic missed out! Let me assure you honey, they were yum!

But,if someone can help me with my chocolate rising then falling, or not rising, disasters please speak up!! It happened again with another choc chip cookie cup cake recipe yesterday from Martha Stewart - this one didn't even have chocolate in the mix, just stirred into the batter! I am not even going to bore you with a blog on that disaster! Don't get me wrong they all taste beautiful but the presentation is terrible darlings!

Signing off, one VERY frustrated baker. xx

Happy Valentines Day - Red Velvet Cupcake

Happy Valentines Day! The Workaholic and I don't really go in for Valentines Day - bit too commercial for us, so it has passed us, as a couple, in a blur, but not me as a mad cupcake baker!

I tried two cupcakes this Valentines Day. The first, the Red Velvet Cupcake, was one I have been wanting to try for some time. You see, apparently the red velvet flavour is huge in America, but pretty much unheard of here.

It intrigued me because the recipe seems to be a plain chocolate cake with red food gel and then a cream cheese frosting. Lots of sites give it rave reviews, there were a lot of recipes around for it, but as I had never even tasted it before I thought I should go with one from the American baking goddess, Martha Stewart.

The batter came out a really deep red colour. The recipe called for Dutch processed cocoa. Hello, people, need I remind you I live in Alice Springs? That was not going to happen, Dutch processed cocoa is hard enough to get in civilised parts of Australia, let alone the Outback. My american girlfriend, Tammie, offered me her last 1/2 cup but I just couldn't do it to her - who knew when I could repay the favour!  So I had to go with the ordinary bitter stuff we have here.

I will try it again some time with the right cocoa but to be honest I just couldn't work out whether I like this flavour or not. Really couldn't describe it to you, except to say strange or very plain!!  I know I am not being helpful. It was like the cake didn't have much flavour at all but the colour made it interesting and the cream cheese frosting made up the main flavour.

Here are some cross sections:

The visual look of the complete cupcakes was very good, very Valentines Day, the toppers were made by me with a cookie cutter, but I feel very non commital on the flavour.

Maybe I should have saved some for my American friend to judge but they were snapped up by the Workaholic's staff, who were intrigued by the colour. I am starting to get some of his workers boycotting the various cake places in town saying that they would rather wait for my next batch. Nice compliment.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Apple Pie Cup Cakes

Donna Hay is an Australian chef who is a bit of a god at making cooking and baking easy for the average every day person. I have used many of her recipes and have lots of her cook books.

She publishes a magazine, that I am lucky enough to have a subscription to this year, and in it she turns you into a gourmet chef. I have hardly had a recipe fail. She is good, you get the picture.

Last year she did a "Couture Cup Cake'' section in her magazine. It had lots of great ideas for cup cakes but being a lover of the ultimate comfort food, apple pie, the apple pie cup cakes caught my eye.

I have tried different versions on an apple cup cake but personally had not been impressed by any of them because they called for pureed apple and that is too subtle a flavour for me. I like the big chunks, I like to be able to see the apple, I like texture in a cup cake. I had been meaning to go back to the different recipes I had tried and modify them to accomodate "chunky" apples, but get too busy trying the next flavour to go back.

Luckily, this recipe has delivered the goods. Although, next time I would still double the apple quantity. I love apple, I think I have gone on enough.

This recipe calls for caramelised apple, something I had not done before, usually I just stew it with some lemon, sugar and spice and call it done. This one used sugar and butter to caramelise and was lovely.

The cup cake mix was probably close to a vanilla cup cake mix and once the apples have cooled you put a spoonful on top of the mix before baking.

While baking, most of the apple disappeared or sank down into the cake, which was a surprise to me and a reason I would add double next time.

The cake was then iced with a butter, icing sugar and cinnamon mix. It had about a 80% butter to 20% icing sugar mix to it and that made me nervous. I am used to much more icing sugar and much less butter. I once tried my blogging friend's recipe for Swiss Meringue Buttercream which called for a lot of butter and, to me, it just came out like whipped butter. I threw it all away and vowed to try it again one day with organic butter.

I am yet to do that, but I did give this one ago, despite my misgivings. I still felt that it tasted too buttery but I decided that maybe it was just personal taste, given my sweet tooth, and that I should let the "jury" decide. So, I piped it on, albeit a bit conservatively compared to normal. It was a particularily warm day and my air conditioner had not been turned on so they were a bit sloppy. I was short on time as I wanted the tasters to get them fresh and I had to get kids to and from school, so I persisted and sprinkled cinnamon on top.

 Have a look at the cross section, I think it says it all, YUM!

As my girlfriend, Caz says, I don't know if it is the new machine or me but this last week the cakes have been "the ones", very gourmet or as my other girlfriend, Tammie, says "Amazing".

Oh how I love cup cakes.

I have the Health Department, or Environmental Health as they are called these days, coming next week to inspect the kitchen as I hope to start increasing the "hobby" business, so I may be too busy cleaning to bake and blog. Oh how I hope not, I will miss it. As most of you know I am obsessive compulsive about cleaning so I would like to think that I don't have to do much to comply.

Wish me luck....................

Rocky Road Cup Cakes

Today is World Nutella Day! Who knew? Me, I am not a huge fan of Nutella, never really given it a chance, too scared that if I did, I would never look back and add ten kilos to my frame!

But I was on a friend's facebook site the other night and saw she had joined the "make Feb 5th World Nutella day" site. Well, I thought, what a great excuse for a cup cake!

I found this recipe in the Donna Hay Magazine which had a "couture cupcake" section. My brother's partner, Aislinn, has kindly lent me the magazine while subtly mentioning that the Rocky Road one looked good. Sorry Aislinn, it is, but 2,500km's is a bit far to send a cup cake, especially one with cream! LOL!

The cup cake itself had both hazelnut meal and dark chocolate in it and came up really nice and fluffy. I then cut out the tops of the cup cake and filled them with a teaspoon of Nutella and some mini marshmallows, before putting the tops back on again.

The icing was mainly cocoa and cream with a tiny bit of icing sugar. I love trying icing and frosting that moves away from the usual buttercream. Don't get me wrong, I love buttercream, but I like to try types of icing that are different to the everyday. I was happy with the icing taste but not overly happy with the finish.

I mentioned in my last blog that I was trying different piping tools. This one used a plain nozzle but it was not wide enough and ended up looking like something you would avoid on the front lawn! So, if you are experimenting yourself, go with the wider piping nozzle, like I did with the Snickerdoodle Cup Cake - you will be much happier!

These were a MASSIVE hit at the Workaholic's office, unfortunately he can't be trusted with the presentation of my cakes, as in his haste to get them to his office, so he could eat one himself mind you, he dropped them. Apparently they lost two and the others got decidedly messy, not to mention the carpet!

 Everyone moved past it though apparently, because they were taking them off the cup cake carrier and trying to scoop out anything left behind. The Workaholic said they were basically licking the tray - which is not a visual I want to think about too long!

Anyway, happy Nutella Day!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Snickerdoodle Cup Cakes

Meet the Snickerdoodle Cup Cake. She is gorgeous, isn't she? Thank you Martha Stewart!

I am going to call this week, Gourmet Cup Cake Week. I have tried three new cupcakes, all with little twists in them, all of them gorgeous, and all of them worthy of being called "Gourmet".

You are probably bored to death with my obsession with cup cakes so I will try and keep the next three blogs brief (yeah, right, like that is ever likely to happen!).

While visiting us, my brothers partner, Aislinn, left me a couple of old Donna Hay magazine issues. One of them included a "couture cup cake" section. I want to try them all, particularily the ones that used different types of icing to my standard buttercream. I did try two, which will feature soon, and it ignited a desire to keep searching for different and delicious cup cakes. This lead me to Martha Stewart's internet site. Yum!

I have written earlier about Snickerdoodle cookies. I love cinnamon, it's the best spice around. The cup cake mix itself is fairly standard with cake flour and cinnamon thrown in. However, the best reason to try this cup cake is the "seven minute" frosting. It is basically a marshmallow frosting, much like the one I tried for the Caramel bliss cup cakes in an earlier blog but MUCH easier.

You may remember the instructions for that frosting left me with a "crime scene" like mess to clean up, calling for me to use electric hand beaters over the stove etc. This one is so simple and tastes just as good, as in divine. I lamented back then that it was so messy and clumsy to make, that I was detered from doing it again. The discovery of this version of the frosting has turned all that around.

I also have been experimenting with different tips for my frosting, trying to not always using a star pipe. I have had mixed results as you will see in the next two blog entries, however, this time I think I nailed it. I am very impressed with the look of these, if I do say so myself, I can imagine them sitting in a shop window.

They are finished off with a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon just like a snickerdoodle. Mmmmmmmmmm. Just perfect to win over the Workaholic's Executive Director who is down in Alice for a visit.

The recipe can be found on Martha Stewart's website.