Choc Chip and Almond Cupcakes

21 Feb

After watching  a charming DVD called The Human Centipede, I needed something sweet and wholesome to rehabilitate my brain and re-inflate my shrivelled soul. And what could be more comforting than chocolate chip and almond cupcakes?

I had a very glamorous assistant to help me with this recipe. His name is Al. Because he probably wouldn’t want his face splashed across the interwebz, here’s an artist’s impression of us cooking together – based loosely on a still from the music video “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon:

“You can call me Al,” Paul Simon seems to say, brandishing some Sainsbury’s chocolate. (So that’s why he’s soft in the middle!) Please note his hairnet. We take elf and safety extremely seriously here at Hudson Towers.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking

Ingredients:

4 egg whites

125g butter, melted

2/3 cup ground almonds

3/4 cup icing sugar

1/4 cup plain flour

100g dark eating chocolate, chopped finely

1/4 cup double cream

100g dark eating chocolate, chopped,  extra

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200 oC. Grease a 12-hole muffin pan.

2. Place egg whites in a bowl and beat with a fork. Stir in butter, ground almonds, sifted icing sugar and flour, and chopped chocolate.

3. Bake cakes about 15-20 minutes. Leave to cool.

4. Meanwhile, combine cream and extra chocolate over heat until combined. Stir until smooth. Stand until thick. Spoon mixture over cupcakes.

Separating the egg white and yolk is always fun. Above is the yolk, and below is the white:

This is not one of the more visually-arresting shots.

Lovely ground almonds. The parmesan cheese of the baking world.

Chocolate. Expertly chopped by Al. It was incredibly difficult not to scoff the lot at this stage.

The recipe couldn’t be simpler. Just give the ingredients a quick mix…

… And that’s it. The recipe uses a surprisingly small amount of flour. I imagine the cakes will be quite light and fluffy in the middle.

And lo! They are. While it looks a little like a rock cake, it has none of the heft. It’s like a prop from an action movie – You could throw it at Bruce Willis’s head and it would bounce right off rather than knocking him out.

Melting double cream and extra chocolate to form a rich topping. (Not pictured: cheeky fingers dabbling in the bowl.)

The creamy chocolate shines when it’s first added…

… Before hardening to a slightly crisper (and matte) top.

VERDICT

Taste:

Delicious. The cake is light and spongy while the chocolate chips give a sweet kick. The chocolate topping is lovely too.

Recipe pros:

Almost impossibly easy, and uses few ingredients.

Recipe cons:

None. I just wish I’d made more.

Now perhaps you’ve had Paul Simon stuck in your head since I first mentioned him at the beginning of this post. If so, lance that popular musical boil by watching this YouTube video:

Skip to 2:10 for the piccolo solo, followed by the nifty synchronised footwork. Imagine that with a spatula and raw eggs, and it’s almost exactly what was going down in my kitchen. Just call me Betty.

Carrot and Orange Muffins

13 Feb

I like to bake. I also like to write. What I like even more is to tell jokes. Sometimes I combine all three. Some days I just stand in the kitchen, baking and telling jokes to myself and laughing and then writing about it. Usually flour goes everywhere and then I spend time not laughing and cleaning-up. My kitchen is sort of like a mental asylum crossed with the Women’s Institute.

When I decided to make carrot and orange muffins, I knew I was in for some serious cleaning-up afterwards.

Q: How do you tell the difference between a walrus and an orange?

A: Put your arms around it and squeeze it. If you don’t get orange juice, it’s a walrus.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp finely grated orange rind

1 1/2 cups firmly packed coarsely grated carrot (about 2 carrots)

1 3/4 self-raising flour

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp mixed spice

For the icing:

2 cups icing sugar

20g butter, melted

2 tbsp orange juice

Adjustments:

I didn’t have any mixed spice, so I didn’t use any.
Method (makes 12):

1. Preheat oven to 180 oC. Line 12-hole pan with cases.

2. Beat oil, sugar, eggs and rind with electric mixer until thick and creamy. Stir in carrot, then sifted dry ingredients.

3. Divide mixture in cases; bake about 30 mins. Stand cakes on wire stand to cool.

4. Make glace icing by sifting icing sugar into small heatproof bowl; stir in butter and enough juice to make a firm paste. Spread onto cakes.

Orange you going to ask what it is?

Attempting to zest the orange and failing.

Instead I grate it on the cheese grater and chop it up finely using a knife. Is this what’s known as the spirit of the Blitz?

Brown sugar.

Is anyone else reminded of Alcatraz?

Quite honestly I feel less worried about the eggs being happy than I do about the chickens. Happy chickens = good. Happy eggs = uneaten, presumably.

The modest star players.

Orange, carrot, it doesn’t matter. On the day of judgement, you will all meet your grater.

Bad news. He’s going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life.

Sifting the dry ingredients into the wet.

Nutritious and delicious.

I wasn’t lying about the flour.

Month-old coleslaw anyone?

Fresh from the oven.

Look at that texture.

This is perhaps the best icing I’ve ever done. Totally accidental.

Pretty snazzy huh? Note the whimsical single blue case.

VERDICT

Taste:

Good. I have to admit that the muffins are lacking in spice (which is my fault for leaving out the mixed spice). They are nice and robust, and not too sweet, but there’s not much to them. While you can’t taste the orange, the carrot adds a pleasant subtle flavour. The icing helps to pick it up overall.

Recipe pros:

Easy. Healthy(?) It contains two (TWO!) of your five-a-day.

Recipe cons:

None. If only I hadn’t left out the mixed spice, it could have been perfect.

But what to do with the leftover orange?

Cheap, cheerful Halloween pumpkin substitute?

Don’t have nightmares.

We got him in the end.

P.S. Want.

Banana Muffins with Maple Cream Frosting

1 Feb

I like making muffins using fruit. It means that instead of eating them as a 4pm snack or waiting until pudding, they can also be scoffed at breakfast, (as part of a balanced diet, of course). Unfortunately, I’ve never been one for willpower, so fruit muffins usually become my breakfast, lunch and dinner (and snacks, and puddings, and just-becauses). It’s a double-edged sword this fruit muffin lark.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking.

Ingredients:

60 g butter

60g soft cream cheese

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 medium bananas, halved lengthways, sliced thinly

For the frosting

30g butter

80g soft cheese

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 1/2 cups icing sugar

Adjustments:

I replaced maple syrup (expensive) with golden syrup (cheap) and used a little less.

I halved the icing recipe and still had enough to coat the cakes.

Method (makes 12):

1. Preheat oven to 180 oC. Line 12-hole muffin pan with cases.

2. Beat butter, cream cheese and sugar in medium bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in milk, syrup and sifted dry ingredients.; fold in bananas.

3. Drop 1/4 cup of mixture into each case; bake about 30 minutes. Stand cakes in pan for 5 minutes then turn onto wire rack to cool.

4. Make maple cream frosting by beating butter, cream cheese and syrup in a small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy; beat in sifted icing sugar, in two batches, until combined.

Milibanana

Now first I’m going to need some bananas. Can you help me out David Miliband?

“Sure Hannah – Here you go. You can have mine.”

But David Miliband! This banana is all wrinkled and almost past its best.

“Oh god. Yeah, sorry about that. It’s been a tough few months.”

Not to worry David Miliband, I know you have a kind heart. I wish you’d won the leadership election instead of Ed.

That news seems to please you David Miliband. I’ll just leave you to it. Thanks again.

“No problem. As you can see, I’ve got plenty of things – not least this ice cream – to be getting on with now.” **

Like the inside of a Miliband brother, the banana is soft and packed full of potassium.

We’ll also be needing some cream cheese, but it looks like I’ll have to fetch that myself.

Like _______(*Insert name of politician), this cream cheese is slimy.

Like _________ (*Insert name of political party), these eggs are past their best. (Safety Notice: Not really, the eggs are well within the use-by date.)

I’m also using a whack-load of solden syrup. Now I gave a fairly comprehensive commentary of this golden syrup a couple of posts back, so I’ll say no more about it for now.

Giving it a good old going-over.

Gloopy.

Now time for the bananas.

In they go.

It’s satisfyingly sticky putting the mixture into the cases. Must be all that syrup. #schlurp

Bow down and worship the Sun God banana muffin.

“This shit it bananas,” says Neo.

VERDICT:

Taste:

Delicioso. The banana is sticky yet firm, and the icing on top is really, well, the icing on the cake – so to speak. Although there’s no banana in the icing, it tastes like there is. Result!

Recipe pros:

It’s easy to do, especially considering I substituted golden for maple syrup.

Recipe cons:

The icing doesn’t look as light and bouncy as it does in the pictures. Perhaps I didn’t give it a good enough beating. Should have asked John Prescott.

** For some genuinely insightful political commentary, why not romp across to Pete’s politics blog? You won’t find cake, but you will find a gullet-full of nuanced political analysis. Feed your mind.

Inside-Out Pizza Puffs

30 Jan

Warning: This blog post contains a controversial definition of “cake”. (As a compromise, I’ve put it under the equally controversial “bread” category.)

First, what is “Cake”? The omniscient Wikipedia says:

Cake is a form of food, typically a sweet, bakeddessert. Cakes normally contain a combination of floursugareggs, and butter or oil, with some varieties also requiring liquid (typically milk or water) and leavening agents (such as yeast or baking powder). Flavorful ingredients like fruit purées, nuts or extracts are often added, and numerous substitutions for the primary ingredients are possible.

The fact that this recipe has a place on this Daily Cake blog rather hinges on that last bit. It contains flour, eggs, butter, milk, and baking powder, while the “flavourful ingredient” is pepperoni.

The conclusive proof? It’s baked in a muffin pan. I trust this is enough to resolve the matter. Haters to the left please.

This recipe is taken from Noble Pig.

3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
4 ounces pepperoni, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup pizza sauce

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375 oC.  Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; whisk in the milk and egg.  Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni; let stand for 10 minutes.

2. Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups.  Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Microwave the pizza sauce until warmed through.  Serve the puffs with the pizza sauce for dipping.

P-p-p-pepperoni. It was either this sliced stuff, or a pepperami – and no one wants to see that in their otherwise-genteel pizza dinner

Haunting.

A cup-a full-a pepp-a-roni eh!

Whisking together the dough mix.

Adding the meat and cheese. Words can’t express how much I love mozzarella. In fact, I love mozzarella so much I’m going to name my firstborn daughter after it.

(c) Flickr user: bizziesmom

The future Baby Mozzarella Hudson.

Letting it sit. Not sure why. Don’t like to ask questions.

After the semi-disaster of the doughnuts sticking to the pan, I’m taking no chances and using paper cases.

And after a quick blast in the oven…

Total golden deliciousness.

VERDICT

Taste:

I can’t wait for them to cool down before I take my first bite, so my first sensation is of piping hot dough. The pepperoni gives an excellent kick, while the cheese keeps the whole thing creamy.

Recipe cons:

They’re a little stuck to the cases.

Recipe pros:

Easy peasy. Providing you don’t eat all the mozzarella beforehand.

The simplicity of the recipe brings me to the final say in the pizza=cake debate:

If pizza isn’t cake, why do we use the expression “pizza cake” when we’re describe something easy? Huh? Infallible logic wins again.

Apple and Ginger Cakes with Lemon Icing

24 Jan

As soon as I got my baking book, I knew I would have to make these.  However, the long list of ingredients put me off for a while. This weekend, the siren song of Tate and Lyle’s Golden Syrup was too strong, and I stickily succumbed.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking.

Ingredients:

250g butter, softened

1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark sugar

3 eggs

1/4 cup golden syrup

2 cups plain flour

1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tbsp ground ginger

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 cup grated apple (1 medium apple)

2/3 cup hot water

For the icing

2 cups icing sugar

2 tsp butter, softened

1/3 cup lemon juice

Method (makes 12):

1. Preheat oven to 180 oC. Grease two large 6-hole muffin pans.

2. Beat butter and sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beat until well combined between additions. Stir in syrup.

3. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Stir in sifted dry ingredients, then apple and water.

4. Divide mixture among pans.

5. Bake about 25 minutes. Stand cakes in pan 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool.

6. Meanwhile, make icing by sifting icing sugar into medium heatproof bowl; stir in butter and juice to form a paste. Place bowl over small saucepan of simmering water; stir until icing is a pouring consistency.

Adjustments:

I declared the recipe halved, and lo, it was.

Wadda ladda baddah.

I finally got my hands on some genuine-goodtime-family-fun brown sugar (so long demerara!). I was surprised at how damp it seemed – like wet sand.

Creaming the butter and sugar. It smells so. good.

But looks like a sinus infection.

Srp. Whenever I see a lion, I think of this one:

He’s the Maiwand Lion, and is actually a war memorial in Reading. I’ve never been to Reading, and the only reason I know about the lion is because it’s an example of doing it wrong.

Look at the lion’s gait. Now imagine a lion actually walking like that. He’d look ridiculous. The sculptor, George Blackwell Simonds, was rumoured to have committed suicide when some wag was kind enough to point it out.

EDIT: The infinite wisdom of Wikipedia tells me I’m wrong!

Rumours persist that Simonds committed suicide on learning that the lion’s gait was incorrectly that of a domestic cat. In fact, he made careful observations on lions and the stance was anatomically correct despite various African ex-pats disagreeing. He also lived for another 43 years, enjoying continuing success as a sculptor going on to create a statue of Queen Victoria (1887) and a statue of George Palmer (1891).

So there we go. I should probably stop telling that story.

It’s a little bit like a tin of wood varnish.

In fact, sorry to go on about this Golden Syrup, but it’s all rather interesting. Those eagle-eyed among you will notice that the logo on the tin looks a lot like a dead lion, surrounded by flies. Delicious. It is a dead lion, but it’s actually surrounded by a swarm of bees. And it’s from The Bible! (via Wikipedia):

In the Book of Judges, Chapter 14, Samson was travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion, and on his return past the same spot he noticed that a swarm of bees had formed a comb of honey in the carcass. Samson later turned this into a riddle at a wedding: “Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” The last seven words still appear on tins of Golden Syrup. Abraham Lyle was a deeply religious man and may have intended to refer to the strength of the company or to the strength of the tin.

Brilliant.

If this isn’t what Conrad meant by The Heart of Darkness, then I radically misunderstood the book.

Sieving the dry ingredients (including yummy ginger) into the wet mixture.

Grating an apple is not like grating a carrot. For one, it’s a lot jucier. For two, it goes everywhere – including your eyes. Perhaps that’s where the expression “apple of my eye” comes from?

One of your five-a-day. Probably.

I kept filling cases 2/3 full until I ran out of mixture. I had enough for 9 in total.

I was a bit slapdash putting the mixture into the cases – hence the splashes (slap+dash).

It smells incredible when it comes out of the oven.

Something went a bit wrong with the glace icing. I don’t think I used enough icing sugar – a whole cup seemed excessive. Also, I didn’t heat it very much, so it’s very runny. Due to the domed shape of the cake, it runs off a little. Still tastes good though.

Paper case removed – it looks a whole lot better.

VERDICT:

Taste:

Spicy and sweet. The tangy lemon icing is a nice contrast to the richer ginger flavour. The cake is spongy and light, but has a nice deep scent, and the apple adds texture.

Recipe cons:

It involves a lot of ingredients. Though that’s not totally a bad thing – I now have the equipment to make it again.

Recipe pros:

The flavours all work very well together. Plus, Golden Syrup. Huzzah!

Cinnamon Doughnut Muffins

18 Jan

So, doughnuts. Or in the words of Willy Wonka’s Veruca Salt:

Cream buns and doughnuts and fruitcake with no nuts – so good you could go nuts.

Exactly.

Thus, imagine my joy when I found this doughnut recipe online. Doughnuts – made in a muffin pan! I was all over it it like white on rice (like krispy on kreme?)

This recipe is taken from Noble Pig.

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups flour

1 1/2 tsps baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup milk

Jam

For the topping:

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Method:

1. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon; whisk to combine.

2. In another bowl, combine sugar, oil, egg, and milk.

3. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened.

4. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups half-full; place one teaspoon jam on top.  Cover jam with enough batter to fill muffin cups three-fourths full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

5. Place melted butter in a small bowl; combine sugar and cinnamon in another bowl.  Immediately after removing muffins from the oven, dip tops in butter, then in cinnamon-sugar.

Adjustments:

I didn’t have any nutmeg, so I didn’t use any.

Greasing the muffin tray. There has to be a better way of doing this. Perhaps I should have use my paintbrush pastry-brush. At least my fingers are nice and soft. (And yes, I did wash my hands.)

Greasy.

Kitchen whimsy – it’s a salt shaker. Every time I use it, he reminds me of this little guy…

Image (c) heroofswitzerland.blogspot.com

Food for thought.

Ground cinnamon.

This recipe is so easy, there isn’t much to photograph.

Ploughing the land (aka, whisking the flour)

Vegetable oil doesn’t get much of an outing these days. Trust the Americans to bung a recipe full of it.

So. Oily.

Mixing the wet and dry ingredients together. (My favourite bit.)

It has the consistency of porridge and the smell of wet linden trees.

This is the first time I’ve used the muffin pan without cases. I hope it’s okay…

(SPOILER: This decision is to prove disastrous.)

Ah, the Verloon Hoop.

Sainsbury’s Basics jam. No shame. No shame, I tell you.

Remind you of anything?

Oh yeah. Now who says this blog lacks class?

“I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.”

– Mae West

Ooh snap Mae, SNAP.

Anyway, here is our tray of severed lips. Now you see them…

… And now you don’t. Because they’ve been covered over with another layer of batter. Those holes look fit to burst.

Gloop gloops, into the oven they go.

My! how they’ve risen.

Are they done? The muffin gives nothing away, but the toothpick… the toothpick never lies. It’s time to pop these bad boys out. Just one small quibble…

…They seem to be a little stuck together. Not to worry, I’m sure they’ll be fine once we get them out of the pan.

It appears someone didn’t grease the pan very well. They won’t come out. Here’s one I maimed earlier.

The next step is supposed to be dipping the still-warm cakes into hot butter and sugar. I’ve tried to cut corners again by using demerara sugar instead of something finer. When will I learn? The crystals are just too massive!

This is one of the least-savaged muffins. Shame about the sugar – you could propose to someone* with one of those rocks.

It’s pretty neat how the jam-centre turned out. I ate one straight from the oven and the jam was still hot.

VERDICT:

Taste:

They taste good. Obviously they’re not quite the same as deep-fried doughnuts, but they are less greasy, and have a more wholesome bite. The flavour is a more like a churro, which is no bad thing in my book. The jam is good too.

Recipe pros:

It’s healthier and more filling than a regular doughnut, and the recipe was simple to put together.

Recipe cons:

It’s a pity they stuck to the pan. I think I overfilled it, but then again,  I was only following the recipe. Next time, I’d also use a different sugar for the top.

* But not to me, and certainly not to Mae West.

Saucy Chocolate Pudding

17 Jan

Among the recipes my mum gave me when I started university was one she’d been given by a friend many years ago. Billed as “Julia’s Perfect Chocolate Pudding”, I decided to made it once during the first term for a group of friends.

It was a total disaster. It cooked only on one side, tasted bitter, and looked like a swamp. I had to throw it away and give people Wagon Wheels instead. “Perfect recipe” my arse. Thanks for nothing Julia. Let’s hope this is better.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking

Ingredients:

60g butter

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup caster sugar

1 cup self-raising flour

1 tbsp cocoa powder

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder, extra

2 cups boiling water

Method (serves 6):

1. Preheat oven to 180 oC. Grease 1.5 litre oven dish.

2. Melt butter with milk in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; stir in extract and caster sugar then sifted flour and cocoa. Spread the mixture into dish.

3. Sift brown sugar and extra cocoa over mixture; gently pour boiling water over mixture. Bake about 40 minutes or until centre is firm. Stand 5 minutes before serving.

Adjustments:

It was only when I started typing up this recipe that I realised I was supposed to grease the pan. I didn’t. And it didn’t seem to make any difference.

I replaced the brown sugar with demerara sugar. I wouldn’t advise this. More details to follow.

Cocoa powder. You’d think no recipe could go wrong once you start with this.

Demerara sugar. See how dense the crystals are?*

Flour. Like the drifted snow at Piz Palü in springtime.

My mise en place, (technically, it’s only a demi-mise, but c’est la vie ma petit pois!)

Melted butter. I wonder if this is what my arteries look like.

Mix it all together, and transfer to (ungreased) dish…

… Then sift sugar onto the chocolate mix.

Yeah, about that. Does the sugar look a little chunky to you?

Sifting the sugar was taking a really long time. *Checks recipe again* Aha, it’s supposed to be brown sugar, rather than demerara. I imagine this is because brown sugar is finer.

* I’ve realised the problem. The crystals are too large to fit through the sieve. Despite my best efforts to shake and scratch it through, it’s a laborious process. I give up and tip half of the sugar back into the packet. Life’s too short.

The sugar layer is covered over with a layer of cocoa powder.

Now this is the bit I find odd. You just pour boiling water over the top of the mixture. The best thing about this recipe is that the pudding makes its own sauce – I guess that’s what this water is all about.

That really doesn’t look right to me.

Delicious swamp. Let’s hope 40 minutes in the oven will transform this bad boy…

Voila. Okay, it doesn’t look like much, but it does look just like the picture, so that’s encouraging. Swampville has been transformed into Lava Land. Chocolate ooze is bubbling through the craters on the surface.

It’s certainly saucy.

VERDICT:

Taste:

Holy goodness – it’s fantastic! What it lacks in presentation, it makes up for in noms. The cake part is bouncy and chewy, while the sauce is thick, sticky and really chocolatey.

Recipe cons:

None particularly. I didn’t miss the demerara sugar that I didn’t use – so I wonder if it’s a totally necessary part of the recipe.

Recipe pros:

It. Tastes. So. Good. And it’s pretty easy to do. Just bung it all in a dish and stick it in the oven. Jamie Oliver would be proud.

More importantly, the curse of Julia and her falsely-advertised “perfect pudding” has been removed once and for all. All hail the new self-saucing pudding.