Thursday, 29 March 2012

Pistachio and chocolate chip cupcakes

I love pistachio flavoured anything, so I couldn't wait to make these. 

It was only after I had started mixing the ingredients and opened the cupboard to get the milk chocolate, ready to chop up, that - oops - I realised I only had bars of dark chocolate. Luckily I'd been super organised for Easter eggs this year, and had a milk chocolate one stored away which I had planned to give my husband. Perfect! (Sorry darling. But I'm sure you'll agree that your chocolate egg was sacrificed for the greater good.)

The frosting for these cakes is a rich, sweet chocolate mousse, consisting of double cream, butter, milk chocolate and sugar. Between that and the ground pistachios and chocolate chips in the cake, these are very, very filling. I made the mistake of eating one just before lunchtime. Lunch was subsequently cancelled.

Pistachio and chocolate chip cupcakes
(Recipe adapted from 'Making Cupcakes with Lola')

For the cakes:
115g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g softened, unsalted butter
A pinch of salt
170g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla paste/extract
2 eggs
40ml full cream milk
100g shelled, unsalted pistachios, ground
75g milk chocolate, chopped

For the chocolate mousse frosting:
125ml double cream
125g milk chocolate
125g softened, unsalted butter
400g icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cases

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric whisk or paddle attachment of a stand mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well after each.

Sift the flour, baking powder and sugar together. Add a third of this dry mixture to the bowl, mixing on low speed until just combined, then add a tablespoon of the milk and mix again. Continue in this way until all the dry ingredients and milk have been mixed in.

Fold in the ground pistachios and chopped chocolate, and divide the mixture between your muffin cases.

Bake for around 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frosting:

Heat the double cream in a pan until it starts to bubble around the edges, and then stir in the chocolate until it has all melted and combined with the cream. Allow to cool.

When the chocolate and cream mixture is at room temperature, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate mixture, the icing sugar and the cocoa powder. Mix gently at first and then increase the speed and beat for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.

You may be able to pipe the frosting on as it is, or if it's too runny, put the bowl in the fridge until it's firm enough.

Top the frosted cupcakes with chopped pistachios, if you have any left (I didn't).

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Accidental chocolate fudge sundae sauce

Remember the failed batch of chocolate fudge I mentioned in my last post?

This is what it ended up as. Silky smooth, rich, fudgy sauce. It's so good that I'm almost glad the recipe didn't turn out as it was supposed to!

In case you're interested, the ingredients were the same as for the vanilla fudge I posted the recipe for, but with 175g of melted 70% cocoa chocolate added. A couple of minutes after I began beating the mixture the chocolate seized and the whole thing looked like dark brown sand - all grainy and gritty - in a pool of oil. Disaster! - or so I thought. But then the author of this wonderful blog came to my rescue.

I simply put the mixture back in the pan and heated it again, adding some milk and stirring until the whole thing came together into a smooth sauce. 

This is a great fix to have up your sleeve if you ever have a problem with chocolate seizing - as it can do very easily. The sauce can be stored in the fridge and gently warmed before pouring over ice cream or whatever else takes your fancy.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a chocolate fudge sundae in front of me that's crying out to be devoured...

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Urban Fudgery

Yes, that's right; today, the Urban Cakery has been transformed into a fudge kitchen - with varying degrees of success, it has to be said.

The first batch, vanilla fudge, turned out pretty well, as you can see from the picture below. The second...well, more about that later.

If you want to make fudge you could really do with having a sugar thermometer, as you have to heat the mixture to 118 degrees Celsius, and no higher.

You'll also need an 8" (approx) square tin, lined with baking parchment.

Here's what you do.

Vanilla Fudge

450g golden caster sugar 
150g butter
125g milk 
2 tbsp liquid glucose (you can find this in large supermarkets, in the baking aisle)
1 generous teaspoon of vanilla extract/paste

Place all the ingredients except the vanilla in a large saucepan. The pan needs to be able to accommodate at least twice the volume of your ingredients, because the mixture bubbles up a lot as it boils.

Heat the mixture over a low heat. As the sugar dissolves and the butter melts, stir with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring constantly as the mixture comes to the boil and bubbles up. If you don't keep stirring, sugar can catch on the bottom of the pan and burn.
Be really careful, as boiling sugar is extremely hot (this isn't one for the kids)!
As soon as the thermometer reads 118°C, take the pan off the heat and leave it for 10 minutes. Don't stir the mixture, just leave it alone. Oh, and don't try tasting it either, unless you feel like melting the inside of your mouth.

When the 10 minutes are up, add the vanilla and pour the lot into a large bowl, or into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk on medium speed for about 10-15 minutes, maybe even longer. You'll know when to stop whisking when the mixture loses its gloss, thickens up and turns lighter in colour.

From this...
...To this.
As soon as you get to this stage, pour the fudge into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top, working quickly. 

Leave overnight to set, then cut into squares and enjoy.

Oh - and as for that second batch of (chocolate) fudge? Well, let's just say it was reincarnated, and I now have a jar of delicious chocolate fudge sundae sauce sitting in the fridge!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Birthday cake

While I've got a minute, I'll post a picture of the birthday cake I made for my daughter, Maya, who turned 2 a week ago. If, like me, you're a passive viewer of children's television, you'll probably recognise the figures!

The cake is a vanilla sponge layered with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream.

Poor Maya wasn't feeling very well on her birthday, but I think she liked it. A couple of days later I found her standing on a chair in the kitchen, trying to eat poor Makka Pakka's head...

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Caramel cupcakes

I noticed the other day that I had a couple of jars of caramel hanging around in the store cupboard (as you do). I go through phases of using it lots - as an ice cream topping, or for banoffee pie, for example - and then I forget all about it for months. And because you can't buy it everywhere, I often end up buying two or three jars at a time.

Anyway, I decided it was time to put the rest to good use, so I found this recipe for caramel cupcakes.

Dulce de leche, which gives these cakes their caramel flavour, is made from milk and sugar - and is a very popular sweet in South America. I used to be able to find jars of it in the local supermarket, but haven't seen it for a while now. You can buy Nestle Carnation Caramel (stocked alongside the condensed milk), which is pretty much the same thing. The one I used here is a French version, labelled as 'Confiture de Caramel'. Personally I don't find it has quite such a rich, creamy flavour as the others, but it's perfectly adequate for this recipe.

Caramel cupcakes
(recipe adapted from 'The Hummingbird Bakery - Cake Days')

For the sponge (makes 12-16 cupcakes):
80g soft unsalted butter
280g golden caster sugar
240g plain flour, sifted
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
2 large eggs
240ml milk, whole or semi-skimmed (whole is best)
½ tsp vanilla extract
150g dulce de leche/confiture de lait/tinned caramel

For the frosting:
500g icing sugar, sifted
160g soft unsalted butter
50ml water or milk
100g dulce de leche/confiture de lait/tinned caramel

Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5 and line a muffin tin with paper cases.

Whisk the butter, sugar, flour, salt and baking powder on a low speed with an electric hand-held whisk or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Keep going until the contents of the bowl resemble crumbs.

Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla extract together with a fork and pour about three-quarters of this mixture into the dry ingredients, still mixing. When everything is well combined, add the rest of the wet ingredients and turn the speed up a bit to medium until you have a thick, uniform batter.

Pour the batter into a jug and then fill your cupcake cases to about two-thirds full. 

Bake for 18-20 minutes until they feel springy when lightly pressed. Cool in the tins for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks.

To make the frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter together at low speed using an electric whisk or a stand mixer with paddle attachment until combined. Don't expect it to be smooth though - it will still be powdery. While mixing, slowly pour in the water or milk, then turn the speed up and whisk until fluffy. Beat in the caramel.

Pipe or swirl the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and decorate as you like. You could dot or pipe some extra caramel on the top if you like. I just put a few edible gold balls on top and sprinkled with a bit of gold lustre dust - and here are six of them all boxed up, ready to go!